London (CNN)Nearly 4 million children in the UK live in households that struggle to afford fruit, vegetables and other foods conducive to a healthy lifestyle, according to a report by the Food Foundation.
The organization’s analysis found that the poorest fifth of families would have to spend 42% of their after-housing income on food to meet the government’s guidelines — nearly four times what the richest 20% of UK families would need to spend, researchers say.
The report says the inability of low-income households to pay for healthy food increases the risk of obesity and diabetes, while also widening the gap in health inequality.
“The government’s measurement of household income highlights the fact that millions of families in the UK cannot afford to eat in line with the government’s own dietary guidance,” said Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, in a statement.
It’s crucial that a coordinated cross-government effort develops policy that accounts for the cost of its recommended diet, and creates a food system that does not consign those on lower incomes to the risk of diet-related illness.”
The report calls on the government to help solve the crisis by increasing benefit payments while also offering universal free school meals, and food vouchers for mothers on low incomes.
“It cannot be right that 50% of households in the UK currently have insufficient food budgets to meet the government’s recommended Eatwell Guide. A healthy diet, which we know is important for our health and development, should not be unaffordable to so many people,” lawmaker Sharon Hodgson, chair of the Children’s Future Food Inquiry committee, said in a statement.
“I hope that the government will look into this issue as a matter of urgency, in order to make eating a healthy diet more affordable.”