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.Porridge and Potatoes to solver Food Poverty

(35 Posts)
Franbern Thu 30-Jul-20 09:31:28


𝗣𝗒π—₯π—₯π—œπ——π—šπ—˜ 𝗔𝗑𝗗 π—£π—’π—§π—”π—§π—’π—˜π—¦ π—ͺ𝗒𝗑’𝗧 π—¦π—’π—Ÿπ—©π—˜ 𝗙𝗒𝗒𝗗 π—£π—’π—©π—˜π—₯𝗧𝗬
Porridge and potatoes are being lauded by wealthy and privileged commentators and politicians as the answer to the country’s obesity crisis and food poverty problem.
People who actually know what it’s like to live with food poverty or work closely with those who do, have tried so hard for so long to make others understand what the real issues are but once again those with privilege are trying to make the debate one of personal responsibility.
I grew up in a poverty and this was most keenly felt around food.
My relationship with food was very much feast and famine depending on how close to pay day we were. Buying fresh fruit every week just wasn’t affordable.
The cost of eating healthily isn’t as simple as privileged people logging on to Tesco and pointing out how β€œcheap” fruit and veg is.
Sure, I can get cheap apples in season but apples aren’t going to fill up 4 people.
Five small apples costs around 80p and as a snack would last a day in my house with two children under the age of six.
Let’s not forget that as a minimum, we should all be eating 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. Throw in different coloured vegetables, a banana and an orange each day and you’ve easily spent a few pounds and no-one has even had a proper meal yet!
So it really rankles when privileged people think tackling food poverty and obesity is sneering about how much Pepsi and Pringles people buy.
Privilege isn’t just about family wealth. Privilege can be having your own transport, time to shop around and the knowledge and confidence to cook from scratch.
Having those things will help bring food bills down and give you better balanced meals but not everyone has that privilege.
If you want to tackle food poverty and obesity then you need to consider convenience, affordability and skills.
Give people the financial security, time and knowledge to shop/cook from scratch and they’ll do it. People aren’t eating chips and beans every day for the sake of it!
For example, I am privileged to no longer be in food poverty, to have my own transport, a stable modest income, and crucially the skills and confidence in the kitchen to cook from scratch.
So last night I made roast chicken with patatas bravas, baked feta and minted peas for 4 at a total cost of Β£8.21.
We have enough leftovers for dinner if I bulk it out with rice/veg for an additional 80p.
Β£9 for two dinners for four people. Sounds cheap, right?
Well for Β£9 I could buy enough beans, frozen chips, frozen veg, fish fingers/nuggets/sausages to feed 4 people dinner for 6 nights plus 2 packets of biscuits.
Nutritionally it wouldn’t be great but 4 people would be fed for almost a week on what I spent on two meals.
Cheap, calorie rich food is filling and people are feeding it to their children out of necessity.
Googling the price of fruit and vegetables to shame people is performative othering. It’s a way of saying to ordinary people that the issues we have aren’t structural but caused by a lack of individual responsibility. β€œTHEY don’t buy fresh food because THEY are lazy and YOU are proof that THEY are lazy because YOU can cook and YOU don’t buy junk”.
I’m a very confident cook and I involve my children in my cooking so they can gain the knowledge and skills. Yet I know people from very privileged backgrounds who are unable to cook because they were never taught. They can afford Tesco finest dinner deals and Charlie Bigham’s ready meals and no-one criticises them for it. Yet the single parent working two jobs buying nuggets and chips is lazy and feckless.
These issues are often down to benefit cuts, freezes and sanctions, delays to universal credit, low and stagnant wages, zero hours contracts and insecure work.
Until the government and their commentators are willing to focus on the real causes of food poverty and obesity instead of labelling people as lazy and feckless they need to stay in their lanes.

GrannyLaine Thu 30-Jul-20 09:43:28

Already a thread on this - Obesity and Poverty.

dizzyblonde Thu 30-Jul-20 10:06:05

This is an excellent article, says what I was trying to say much more eloquently.
If we stuck to one thread per subject GN would be very quiet.

Callistemon Thu 30-Jul-20 10:26:57

I pointed out on the other thread that anyone needing to use a food bank would have a more limited diet because food which is suitable for donation has to have a shelf life therefore is tinned and packeted food, not fresh.

trisher Thu 30-Jul-20 10:41:10

Franbern thanks for that article. It is so true. I don't read posts about obesity so I haven't seen the other thread. It isn't a problem that is easily solved. But it is good to know that there are local councillors who fully understand the problem. Perhaps it will only be solved if the food industry chooses to manufacture food items which are low cost, nourishing, low calorie, filling and tasty, because unfortunately I can't see the Tory government we have for the next 4 years increasing benefits or dealing with poverty.

Callistemon Thu 30-Jul-20 10:45:44

It is not just poverty though, is it. The problems are complex.

Many people were poor in times past but still managed to eat fresh food, although perhaps limited, because there was no junk food available.

We spent a higher proportion of our income on food then too.
This country spends a relatively small proportion of income on food and food is relatively cheap.
Housing is very expensive, both rented and owned and takes a disproportionate amount of income leaving less for food.

Fast food chains, food manufacturers are guilty of marketing foods full of sugars and unhealthy fats but which are cheap, easy and readily available. They are also helping to destroy the planet by their use of cheap palm oil.

Studies of aspartame have shown that it causes, not prevents, obesity.
It's not always a question of how much people eat - there may be links between some of the ingredients eg palm oil, corn syrup, in cheap, fast foods and the type of fat produced in the body. Corn syrup is far worse than sugar yet sugar has been labelled the evil ingredient.

midgey Thu 30-Jul-20 10:52:12

Callistemon I am with you on cheap food. We are being programmed to want the lowest price for everything. Cheap food is very often poorly produced or comes with much lower welfare standards. We all need to rethink our priorities!

Callistemon Thu 30-Jul-20 10:56:06

If people had reasonably priced decent housing they'd have more to spend on decent, reasonably priced food.

As long as manufactured foods are filled out with cheap ingredients such as palm oil and corn syrup which cause obesity, people will buy them.
Many people, not just people who are poor.

Oopsadaisy3 Thu 30-Jul-20 10:58:04

I know that I’ll be shot down in flames for this, but β€˜back in the day’ I was a young Mum living in a tower block, I had basic cookery lessons at school, but I had a library card and looked up cheap recipes of things to cook with very little money ie. breast of lamb, then sausage, minced meat etc. with fresh veg.
However, we did not have
A telephone
A car
A fridge or freezer
A television, just a battery transistor radio
No hair dos
All money for clothes went to the children ( because they grew so quickly)and DH for work clothing.

When I see a family who claim that they are unable to feed their children healthy meals (with the abundance of cookery books with 30 minute meals in them, plus shopping delivered to their door) for a reasonably low cost who also don’t have any electrical appliances, phones,computers , televisions or cars, then I will feel that it’s the Governments fault.
Until then it seems to be a matter of priorities and idleness.

I will now go back into my cupboard and put on my hard hat, ready to be told that β€˜times have changed’.

Callistemon Thu 30-Jul-20 11:02:24

I do recognise that scenario, Oopsadaisy
I can remember my DD, then about 5, saying "Mummy needs a new dress, Daddy, she never buys anything for herself".

I will say that I wouldn't criticise anyone for buying a laptop - children have been struggling to do any schoolwork because of not having access to one recently.

GagaJo Thu 30-Jul-20 11:03:51


Callistemon I am with you on cheap food. We are being programmed to want the lowest price for everything. Cheap food is very often poorly produced or comes with much lower welfare standards. We all need to rethink our priorities!

The poor don't have that luxury ('rethinking their priorities'). They're too busy surviving and trying to get by without a livable income. That is what the article is about!

I had a friend years ago who sneered at me and said it was about knowing how to budget because I couldn't make ends meet. Her income was 3 times what mine was. I'm excellent at making a little money go a long way. Now I have a stable income I save and budget brilliantly.

paddyanne Thu 30-Jul-20 11:19:34

Not JUST children who need access to the internet,jobseekers must show they've looked for a certain number of jobs every day or they'll be "sanctioned" ,then there will be NO money to buy any food for the family.Remember please that unemployment isn't laziness,.maybe in the odd case but for most its bad circumstances beyond their control .Most people want to look after their families and being out of work causes mental health issues which compound the situation.

I know some smoke or drink...and who can blame them.When things are so bad they cant see a light at the end of the tunnel they need something to ease their worry.I totally understand that ,sadly many on here dont .

EllanVannin Thu 30-Jul-20 11:51:34

Housing is the greatest bugbear so far as those who are trying to manage is concerned. Whether it be extortionate mortgages/rents it doesn't give anyone a chance to eat properly once they've secured a roof over their heads. Then you have council tax and the greedy utilities, gas/electric/water.

Come winter time, how do families manage to keep warm AND eat well ? Something has to give. Children of these families are our future. What of another Covid along with winter 'flu, how many are going to die trying to keep warm or being fed the right and proper food so that they remain reasonably well ?

Blimey, if I ate 5 portions of fruit/veg a day I'd never be off the toilet ! It's not needed as you age and because so much goes to waste anyway, it should be offered to all families with children.

Distribution of foodstuffs seems to be sketchy. Does this automatically go to those who are out of work or who have lost their jobs ? Things are going to get worse aren't they ?

eazybee Thu 30-Jul-20 12:09:31

I remember some years ago Anne Widdecombe taking on a challenge to help young mothers on low incomes feed their families healthily for a week, and she did.
What she commented on was the distance they had to go, on foot with small children, to get cheap fresh food, particularly meat, vegetables and fish, almost unobtainable. The local rather poor supermarket had effectively wiped out all the butchers, green grocers and fishmongers where they could get cheap cuts, small amounts and miss-shaped vegetables, and it was a long, expensive bus ride into town.

Chewbacca Thu 30-Jul-20 12:22:52

It's just so easy to judge those who are living on the bread line as being lazy and feckless isn't it? Family to feed, high rent or mortgage, council taxes and utilities, all out of a very tight, limited budget. And unlike our generation, they have little access to a market selling fresh vegetables and produce because the supermarkets have seen them all off. No wonder food banks are needed by so many.

GagaJo Thu 30-Jul-20 12:43:36

Exactly Chewbacca, and at the risk of setting off an anti-China tirade, this is why the Chinese have those huge fresh food markets. They are cheap and allow farmers to sell produce direct. I used them all the time when living there. All areas have them. To get anything similar in Newcastle, I have to go all the way into the city centre (almost Β£5 on bus or metro) to go to our admittedly very good indoor market. The fare alone puts it out of reach of anyone on a low income.

Blinko Thu 30-Jul-20 13:12:49

Thanks for posting that article, Franbern. I was particularly struck by the examples of what could and couldn't be done with Β£9, for two and for a family of four people. Most illuminating. When I was little, we grew most of our own veg so that made a huge difference.

Caramac Thu 30-Jul-20 13:24:34

I believe that social housing at affordable prices is key to bringing the cost of living down.
I would also bring back proper school meals and ban packed lunches at school. This would also provide jobs for parents/carers who need a term time contract with an annualised salary.
I’d support school meals being free or more heavily subsidised.
Basic cookery and life skills should also be taught in every school to every child. I realise that for some SEN children this might be impractical but the majority of children would benefit.

Oopsadaisy3 Thu 30-Jul-20 13:25:32

I had a shopping delivery last night 9pm cost me Β£1. Plenty of fresh fruit and veg online and as everybody has laptops, obtaining them shouldn't be a problem.
Let’s face it there is always an excuse to spend money on anything other than boring ingredients and buy junk food instead.
My DD went to our fridge one day when she was a child, and shouted that there was no food in the house and that she would starve, what she saw was ingredients to make meals, which is what she was told.

Oopsadaisy3 Thu 30-Jul-20 13:27:18

Caramac I agree, if children can’t be taught to cook at school then they should be shown how to access the sites that show them how to prep food online.
Plus they should all be taught how to handle their finances ready for when they need to support themselves and their families.

GillT57 Thu 30-Jul-20 13:39:06

Thank you franbern a most straight forward article pointing out that none of us know the truth of the causes of poverty of food and nutrition.

Rosalyn69 Thu 30-Jul-20 14:19:03

It bothers me that less well off people may not be putting good eating habits higher on the list than the latest mobile phone, Sky TV subscriptions, expensive TVs etc.

watermeadow Thu 30-Jul-20 18:38:45

School dinners are 5 meals per week out of the usual 21 eaten and there’s nothing to stop a child choosing only chips, pizza and doughnuts at school. Very few will ever choose vegetables or salad.
In deprived areas children then walk home past dozens of junk food outlets selling fried chicken and chips for a matter of pence.
Food poverty is complicated and the days of mince and cabbage are long long gone.

trisher Thu 30-Jul-20 18:53:35

There is also the question of food addiction. Children fed processed foods at an early age develop a taste for them and it is difficult to change their eating habits. This is a report on baby foods- it is shocking

rosecarmel Thu 30-Jul-20 19:36:20

In no uncertain terms, poverty is a result of governmental, legislative neglect- Governance is intentionally designed for the flow of money to up, not down and not out-

The most recent example of this I can provide is the upsidedown pyramid of the corona virus bailout package here in the US-

Billions went to billionaires, millions to millionaires (including Hollywood celebs), thousands upon thousands to some families monthly and a "one time" payout of 1,200 to those most vulnerable-

The eviction moratorium expires July 31st- Evictions can begin August 1st-

Food, a roof and warmth, 3 of your basic necessities to survive, that are hard won, can overnight be gone-