Tag: food poverty

Local food bank support

Food 1
Unite Community members continue to support our local food bank, making another vital food donation this week (pictured above).

Rickets returns as poor families find healthy diets unaffordable

This article by Tracy McVeigh originally appeared in the Guardian.

The UK Faculty of Public Health will call for national food policy including sugar tax as concerns rise over vitamin deficiencies.

Poverty is forcing people to have dangerously poor diets and is leading to the return of rickets and gout – diseases of the Victorian age that affect bones and joints – according the UK Faculty of Public Health.

The public health professionals’ body will call for a national food policy, including a sugar tax, as concerns rise over malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies in British children. It will also appeal for all political parties to back a living wage to help combat the illnesses.

Doctors and hospitals are seeing a rise in children suffering from ailments caused by poor diet and the faculty has linked the trend to people’s inability to afford quality food. Latest figures show there has been a 19% increase in people hospitalised in England and Wales for malnutrition over the past 12 months but experts say this is only the extreme end.

Dr John Middleton, from the FPH, said the calls would come in the faculty’s manifesto to be published next month and warned that ill-health arising from poor diets was worsening throughout Britain “through extreme poverty and the use of food banks“.

He said that obesity remained the biggest problem of food poverty as families are forced into choosing cheap, processed high fat foods just to survive. “It’s getting worse because people can’t afford good quality food,” he said. “Malnutrition, rickets and other manifestations of extreme poor diet are becoming apparent. GPs are reporting rickets anecdotally in Manchester, the East End of London, Birmingham and the West Midlands. It is a condition we believed should have died out.

“The vitamin deficiency states of gout, malnutrition being seen in hospital admission statistics are extreme manifestations of specific dietary deficiencies or excesses, but they are markers of a national diet which is poor. Food prices up 12%, fuel prices up double-figure percentages and wages down is a toxic combination, forcing more people to eat unhealthily.”

He said many policy makers forgot the impact of rising energy prices on diet. “That is the bit people dont really appreciate – a processed meal from a supermarket will need less feeding the meter as of course will a fast food take out. Poor people are having to pay out more of their income on food compared to the better off. There are difficult choices for people on low income.”

Carmel McConnell, founder of the Magic Breakfast charity, which provides a free breakfast to 8,500 British schoolchildren in need each morning, said teachers in the schools she worked in expected to see a dramatic decline in the health of their pupils as they return after the holidays: “Teachers tell us they know even with free school meals it will take two to three weeks to get their kids back up to the weight they were at the end of the last school term because their families cannot afford the food during the holidays.”

McConnell and Middleton both welcome the Nick Clegg-led intiative to start universal free school meals in schools for younger children, although critics are claiming that schools, already facing a dire shortage of places, may find it difficult to accommodate when the scheme is rolled out later this week.

The UK has 3.8 million children in extreme poverty. Charities such as the Trussell Trust report growing need for food banks but say that some of the items donated can be of poor quality.Dr Middleton said: “If the nutritional diseases are markers of a poor diet, the food banks are markers of extreme poverty – the evidence from Trussell Trust suggests the biggest group of users are hard working poor families who have lost benefits, live on low and declining wages and or they have fallen foul of draconian benefits sanctions which propel them into acute poverty and hunger. This is a disastrous and damning indictment on current welfare policy and a shame on the nation. The food banks are providing a real and valued service staving off actual hunger – they are actually keeping people alive.”

Food spending falls for first time as stores compete and real wages drop

The article by Angela Monaghan originally appeared in the Guardian.

Britain’s food bill drops for first time as supermarkets wage price wars and consumers fail to feel effects of economic recovery.

Spending in food stores fell for the first time on record in July amid intense competition between Britain’s biggest supermarkets – while consumers have yet to feel the benefit of recovery in their pockets.

Britons spent £11.7bn on food during the month, a 1.3% drop compared with July last year. It was the first annual fall in the value of food sales since the Office for National Statistics started collecting the data in 1989. The volume of food sales was also down last month, by 1.5% on an annualised basis.

The ONS put the fall in the value of food sales down to “prolonged discounting and price wars”. Britain’s leading supermarkets have all slashed prices on basic items to fight off competition from Aldi and Lidl, the German discount food chains that have become increasingly popular among cash-strapped UK shoppers.

At the same time, a prolonged fall in real wages has encouraged consumers to shop around more for bargains, opting for cheaper alternative products such as own-brand labels, and buying fewer premium-brand goods. Consumers are also focusing on wasting less food, buying little but more often.

Neil Saunders, managing director at retail consultancy Conlumino, said the unprecedented fall in July was significant. “It is an indication of the issues occurring in the food and grocery market at the moment. We have too many players chasing not enough sales.

“[The drop] is significant because it underlines the real pressure within that segment of the market, and it underlines an economic shift in the way the industry works. That’s obviously very painful for some of the players in that market.”

Prices in UK food stores were 0.2% higher than a year ago – the lowest food-price growth rate since December 2004. Prices of goods sold across the retail sector were 0.9% lower than a year ago, the strongest rate of deflation since 2009.

Britain’s economic recovery looks increasingly established, with growth outpacing that of its G7 peers and an increase in gross domestic product of 0.8% in the first and second quarters of this year. Nevertheless, household budgets remain under pressure as workers’ real pay has fallen for the majority of the past six years.

Consumers are also braced for higher borrowing costs, as the Bank of England moves closer to increasing interest rates for the first time since March 2009.

Saunders said prospects for Britain’s retail sector overall remained mixed. “It is a very competitive sector at the moment and, although there is a genuine economic recovery, it is not filtering through to consumers as much as retailers would like. People are still very cautious about spending. It is not a bad picture for retail, but it is mixed.”

He said that a strong housing market was boosting some areas of the sector, including homeware and DIY goods.

The ONS data showed the volume of retail sales rose by 0.1% over the month in July, disappointing City expectations of a stronger rise of 0.4%. Growth was held back by sales of fuel and household goods, which both fell in July.

It slowed the annual rate of growth to an eight-month low of 2.6%, and could be a sign that economic growth is moderating, according to John Hawksworth, chief economist at accountancy firm PwC. However, he said it was too soon to be clear whether it was a sign of things to come. “Retail sales data can be erratic, so we should wait for more evidence before concluding that the recovery is running out of steam.”

Once fuel sales were stripped out, the volume of retail sales grew by 0.5% on a monthly basis in July. Samuel Tombs, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, said it was an encouraging sign of resilience among consumers.

“July’s retail sales figures provided reassurance that consumers are still willing to spend more even though an interest-rate hike is looming.” Tombs said a 3.3% fall in fuel sales in July was probably down to a rise in prices during the month and should prove to be temporary.

“Oil prices have fallen sharply in recent weeks, suggesting that pump prices will fall back soon,” he said.