It’s invaluable that Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy recognises that so many people are unable to eat well due to lack of income and that “Ideally, of course, the true cost of eating healthily should be calculated into benefits payments”.
The recommendations to reduce diet-related health inequality through stop gap measures like healthy start vouchers, free school meals and holiday provision are very welcome, but they must go hand in hand with changes that would prevent health inequalities from emerging in the first place.
Like the dramatic rise in emergency food parcel provision by food banks, the reality that millions of children need food support both in school and during the holidays is testament to the fact that their parents are living in poverty and are unable to afford adequate food.
In little over two months, poverty levels will worsen yet further when Universal Credit is cut. Over two million people on legacy benefits still need to see an increase in payments while in-work poverty is on the rise. We urgently need to see income-based solutions including adequate social security payments, local authority crisis grants and wages and job security that match the cost of living. These are the measures that will reduce poverty and address diet-related health inequalities for good.
Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network