Healthy and sustainable diets are becoming unaffordable, reveals Food Foundation report

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

The cost of healthy food is rising. Credit: Raychel Deppe, iStock
The cost of healthy food is rising. Credit: Raychel Deppe, iStock

Related tags Healthy food Sustainability Food prices plant-based

The 2023 Broken Plate report from The Food Foundation has highlighted the rising cost of healthy and sustainable food, and how this disproportionately impacts the poorest people in society.

The Broken Plate, authored by Shona Goudie, investigated eight key metrics to illustrate the current state of the food environment in the UK. These metrics encompassed the price and affordability of healthy and sustainable food, its availability and its appeal.

Prohibitive costs

The Broken Plate 2023 report​ found that the most deprived fifth of the population would need to spend 50% of their disposable income on food to afford a healthy diet as defined by The Eatwell Guide. This increased from 43% a year prior.

Meanwhile, the least deprived fifth would have to spend 11% of their disposable income to afford the same diet.

The report also found that more healthy foods are now twice as expensive as less healthy foods.

In 2023, healthier food cost more than £10 per 1,000 calories on average, in contrast to less healthy food which cost around £4.50. The year prior, healthier foods were valued at £9.02 per 1,000 calories on average.

Furthermore, the average cost of 1,000 calories worth of fruit and vegetables was almost £12. This is compared to £5.82 per 1,000 calories worth of food and drink with high fat or sugar content, £4.61 for milk and dairy products, and £1.25 for bread, rice, potatoes and pasta.

Sustainable plant-based​ chicken alternatives were also found to be more expensive than the same quantity of chicken breast, despite contributing less than a quarter of the carbon emissions.

“The findings from the report show us that too often people do not have the financial resources to buy the food they need,”​ said Goudie.

Unhealthy options

The rising cost of healthy and sustainable food is further compounded by its lack of availability and appeal.

As of 2022, more than a quarter of all restaurants in the UK were fast-food establishments, with a higher proportion of fast-food outlets situated in the most deprived parts of the country.

Similarly, just 7% of breakfast cereals marketed to children are considered low in sugar, while 97% of snacks marketed toward babies and toddlers feature a claim of nutritional value despite many having high sugar levels.

This is reflected in almost a quarter of five-year-olds experiencing tooth decay, with that number reaching more than 35% within the most deprived quintile.

“We need to reorient the food system and shift our food culture so the healthiest options are affordable, available and appealing,”​ Goudie added.

“Only with these changes can we ensure that everyone, regardless of income or background, can eat nourishing food that promotes health and wellbeing and delivers wider societal benefits.”

You may also enjoy Food Manufacture’s recent analysis of the alternative proteins market, which is set to surpass $290bn.

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