Food Foundation: 4 million children can’t afford to eat well

Food Foundation | September 2018 | Affordability of the UK’s Eatwell Guide

A report from the Food Foundation compares the cost of the Eatwell Guide with disposable income to estimate the proportion of income which would need to be allocated to food to afford the Eatwell Guide. The think tank finds that low income families are unable to afford the cost of following the government’s guidelines. 

Researchers calculated that the fifth of UK households that earn less than £15,860 a year would have to spend an average of 42 per cent of their income after rent on food to eat a healthy and balanced diet making it unfeasible for many. They estimated that a household of four (two adults and two children aged 10 and 15) would need to spend £103.17 per week to be able to follow the Eatwell Guide.


According to their figures almost half (47 per cent)  of UK households – about 14 million – did not spend enough money on food to meet the dietary recommendations. The proportion rises to 60 per cent for single-parent families, while less than a fifth of unemployed people spend enough to meet Eatwell’s definition of a healthy and balanced diet.

The UK Government’s Eatwell Guide outlines a diet that meets population nutrient needs.
However, there are several indicators that low income households in the UK may be struggling to follow the Eatwell Guide, including differential nutrient intakes and diets, increasing food bank usage, and higher childhood obesity statistics in deprived areas. This analysis assesses how affordable the Eatwell Guide is for households by income decile. We compared the cost of following the Eatwell Guide, calculated from existing research, to household expenditure data from the 2015/16 Living Costs and Food Survey and to disposable income data from the 2015/16 Family Resources Survey. We found that 26.9% of households would need to spend more than a quarter of their disposable income after housing costs to meet the Eatwell Guide costs, and more than half of these households contain at least one child. For households with children in the bottom two deciles, earning less than £15,860, 42% of after-housing disposable income would have to be spent to meet the Eatwell Guide costs. The results point to the need to ensure the incomes and resources of low-income households are adequate for purchasing a healthy diet, and to take measures to support these households in affording the foods contained within the Eatwell Guide.

In the media:

The Independent Nearly four million British children are too poor to eat healthily, study finds

BBC News Families ‘can’t afford to follow healthy diet guidance’

CNN 4 million children in UK too poor to have healthy diet, report claims

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