The 38-year-old celebrity chef told the Radio Times: “You might remember that scene in Ministry of Food [one of his TV programmes], with the mum and the kid eating chips and cheese out of Styrofoam containers, and behind them is a massive TV. It just didn’t weigh up.”
Oliver – whose fortune is estimated at £150M – claimed he was “not judgemental” about families on low incomes. But he added that some families do not know how to feed themselves and relied too much on ready meals.
“The fascinating thing for me is that seven times out of 10, the poorest families in this country choose the most expensive way to hydrate and feed their families: the ready meals, the convenience foods,” he told the magazine.
But the Child Poverty Action Group said that for many families low income “gets in the way of healthy eating”.
Less able to afford fresh fruit
Imran Hussain, its head of policy, said: “As official statistics show, parents of poor children are much less likely to be able to afford fresh fruit for their children. We also know from the evidence that, as the incomes of poor families rise, they spend more on things like healthy food and children’s clothes.”
Hussain added “the huge hits” many working and non-working families were taking in their incomes as a result of cuts in tax credits and benefits were very real – as shown by the big growth in demand for food banks. “The government’s child poverty strategy is seriously adrift and urgently needs rethinking,” he said.
But Hussain went on to acknowledge the “huge contribution” Oliver has made to improving school meals and his support for the group’s work on free school meals.
Oliver was speaking to the Radio Times to promote his new Channel 4 show, Jamie’s Money Saving Meals. The show is intended to help people save on their food bill.
Meanwhile, Oliver’s views divided commentators on the social networking site Twitter.
‘Spot on about ready meals’
Martyn Folley tweeted: “Spot on about ready meals and big TV – but not long ago encouraging us to go to Sainsbury’s, now you want us to buy from markets.”
Lucy commented: “How dare a rich man lecture the poor for his own gain ... apparently. At least, he’s trying. More than the government.”
Bloomsbury tweeted: “Jamie Oliver sparked big debate today. Academics researching food poverty – reveal yourselves! We need solid research over conjecture here.”
Nick said: “I think you have a point that’s distorted by the media. People need to learn to cook fresh which would open up more options.”
Martine and Jason tweeted: “Easy to judge when you lead a privileged life. That big TV is probably the best thing in those kids lives."
More inscrutably, Samuel Davies tweeted: “I'm working class and have great culinary skills. I prepared a toilet duck l'orange today.”
What do you think about Oliver's comments? Was he right to comment or should he have kept quiet on this subject?
Share your views by taking part in our quiz.
To read about Oliver's controversial views on the alleged superiority of migrant workers over "wet-behind-the-ears" young British workers, click here.
Was Jamie Oliver right to criticise low income families for buying huge TVs instead of healthy food?
Of course. As a leading food campaigner, he was right to criticise value systems that place big TVs ahead of healthy food.78%
No - it's none of his business what TVs families buy. He should stick to casseroles not criticism of poor families.14%
Pass the ketchup for these chips please.6%