General Health Friday August 29, 2014

I’m Poor And Junk Food Is Cheaper


What does the government really want us to do? On the one hand, they want people to eat more fruits, nuts and vegetables and on the other, they make the unhealthiest foods cheapest and most available. They need to start enforcing stricter measures on this. The price of meat, dairy and grocery products is at an all time high, leaving poor families reaching for the basic junk food range every time.

Do impoverished communities have any alternative to avoiding rubbish food anymore? Contrary to popular belief, this is not only a matter of individual choice. Lots of things are stacked against people making healthier choices.

Far too many takeaway outlets in poorer places

If we’re using typical high streets as an example, where are you more likely to find a long chain of fast food outlets? I’d put my money on a typical high street in Tottenham over one in Knightsbridge any day of the week. As socially deprived areas have easier access to junk food, is it any wonder its residents resort to dining there, especially when their personal savings are non-existent. With petrol prices higher than ever before, they can’t exactly drive elsewhere for better options.

Another reason why there are so many fast food chains across the country is that supermarkets are driving local food shops out of business. They’ve spread across the country like a wildfire and I’m pretty certain that plans have been made to build another new Tesco near you.

Are supermarkets helping the problem?

In short, they’re making the problem worse. A report looking into the food habits of UK shoppers found that families of lower socioeconomic backgrounds were altering their meal plans to match the reduced junk food offers from supermarkets, fuelling the nation’s obesity dilemma.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that supermarkets tend to favour rubbish food for special offers. There always seems to be a wide range of special offers on the snack, fizzy drink and savoury aisles. So you may have walked in for a single KitKat, but you’ll end up leaving with the ‘buy one get one free’ 8 pack of KitKat Chunky. After a few late night trips to the fridge, you will have nibbled through the entire pack in under a week. In layman’s terms, that’s how manufacturers make more money from you in the long run.

Moreover, it’s not only those with lower incomes who suffer. Quick convenience foods can appear to be the simplest and cheapest option for those who haven’t planned ahead. Without a plan, it’s easy to end up with more junk food than intended, costing you even more than a healthy trolley.

What action needs to be taken?

With regards to supermarkets, there have been talks about introducing a new code to restrict the use of cartoon characters on foods that are high in sugar, salt and saturated fat. That’s the not so “great” news for Frosties icon, Tony the Tiger.

Multinational food companies may also be asked to set aside a percentage of marketing spend for “healthier” products instead of spending it all on crisps, confectionary and fizzy drinks.

Local councils are also keen to ban several fast food joints across areas of high deprivation where life expectancy is low. But is this really feasible when huge sections of the population depend on this type of food to stay alive?

Other are arguing for manufacturers to remove excess levels of salt and fat from fast food. This sounds more realistic but it’s easier said than done as the vast majority of fast food outlets rely on excess ingredients and cheap oil to drive down costs and make their food taste better.

What do you think? If you have any ideas, please get in touch

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