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The growing divide between health and wealth



The Covid-19 pandemic and the campaigning of celebrities such as Marcus Rashford, MBE drew wider attention to the scale of issues surrounding food poverty. There has, in recent years been an increasing need for services such as food banks. Over the last decade there has been an exponential growth in food bank usage. The pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact but the trend was escalating rapidly pre-pandemic.


UK Food bank usage (number of people)

2012/13 346,992

2013/14 913,138

2014/15 1,084, 604

2015/16 1,112,395

2016/17 1,201,302

2017/18 1,354,388

2018/19 1,604,244

2019/20 1,906,625

2020/21 2,537,198


The need for food banks has increased by 123% in the last five years.


Statistics from The Trussel Trust


Health and Wealth

  1. The need for UK food banks has increased by 123% in the last five years.

  2. Over the last decade there has been an exponential growth in food bank usage. The pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact but the trend was escalating rapidly pre-pandemic.

  3. 2020/21 in the UK 2,537,198 people have a need for food banks

  4. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic UNICEF, (United Nations Childrens Fund) who are responsible for humanitarian aid around the world had to step in to support UK children. This is the first time in UNICEF’s history that they have supported the UK.

  5. There was an exponential increase in the number of children becoming eligible for free school meals during the pandemic with an additional 128,000 children. However, children were not in school due to lockdowns and there was, of course a lot of negative media attention on the response to feeding those eligible children during this time of need.

  6. Within the UK today we have very real poverty and this brings with it health inequalities. Income is associated with health, whereas those in the bottom 40% of income distribution are twice as likely to report poor health than their counterparts in the top 20% of income distribution

How can we help?

We know what nutritionally balanced food should look like; bright, colourful, fresh but, unfortunately most food banks are only able to deal with ambient donations and deliveries meaning that goods must be in tins or packets. How do we ensure that we are donating nutritious foods this way?






  • Tinned veg

  • Tinned fruit in fruit juice not syrup

  • Tinned fish such as tuna, mackerel, salmon – these are great sources of protein and essential fatty acids (EFA’s)

  • Tinned pulses such as kidney beans, lentils, chick peas and baked beans are all great sources of protein along with being naturally low in fat and rich in vitamins and minerals. Pulses are ready cooked so can easily be heated up to serve with pasta or tinned potatoes as a main meal or added to a soup to make a hearty lunch.

One area to be cautious with is tinned meat. These tend to have a very high salt content which would not be suitable for families with small children or those with high blood pressure. Due to the nature of the product, they are also likely to be cured and contain additives. Whilst it can seem an easy option to buy tinned meat products there are healthier alternatives.


Food donations and sugar

One shocking report showed this energy breakdown from the food parcels analysed in the Oxfordshire area: -


62.2% of energy was provided as carbohydrate and 569% of the DRV (Daily Reference Value) was provided by sugar.


There are strong links between excess sugar consumption and both short and long-term ill-health. When we consider that many sugar-rich foods are also devoid of nutrients, (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, fibre etc – the elements which support health) food parcels high in these sugary foods are likely to be low on nutrients. . Those who need it most are being provided with food that may not support optimal health. It’s really important to focus on the nutrients contained within the parcel rather than foods you may consider ‘nice to have’. If you want to add in something sweet or if you think the parcel is for a family, add in some dried fruit such as apricots or raisins and some bars of dark chocolate, this will all provide a sweet ‘treat’ but also some fibre and antioxidants.


Making meals

Imagine cooking a meal just from tins, you need protein, fats and carbs. Choose foods that can easily turn into a meal. Remember that food poverty may mean that households do not have a microwave or oven so the dish may not be able to go in the oven. We should never assume, base ingredients (cupboard staples) are available, the meal should be able to be made from the exact ingredients in the food parcel.



Mackerel Pesto Pasta

Tinned Mackerel fillets 65p x 2 = £1.30

1kg Wholewheat pasta = £1.20 (use half) = 60p

Tinned tomatoes = 28p

Jar pesto = 90p (use half) = 45p

Tin green beans = 80p

Tin mushrooms = 90p

Dried hard cheese = £1.00 (use 1/5) = 20p


TOTAL cost – family of 4 = £4.53

How nutritionally balanced is the Mackerel Pesto Pasta?


Mackerel fillets = Protein & Essential Fatty Acids

Wholewheat pasta = Fibre & B vitamins

Tinned tomatoes = Lycopene (antioxidant)

Jar pesto = flavour & protein

Tin green beans = B vits, iron & magnesium

Tin mushrooms = B vits, fibre & antioxidants

Dried hard cheese = additional flavour & protein


In the above example I used half a bag of pasta and half a jar of pesto. To use up the other half another night in the week here is another dish: -


Beany Pesto Pasta

1kg Wholewheat pasta = £1.20 (use other half) = 60p

Tinned tomatoes = 28p

Jar pesto = 90p (use other half) = 45p

Tin carrots= 20p

Tin sweetcorn = 45p

Tin kidney beans = 55p

Tin Ratatouille = £1.00

Dried hard cheese = £1.00 (use another 1/5) = 20p


TOTAL cost – family of 4 = £3.73


How nutritionally balanced is the Beany Pesto Pasta?


Wholewheat pasta = Fibre & B vitamins

Tinned tomatoes = Lycopene (antioxidant)

Jar pesto = flavour & protein

Tin carrots = vitamin A, K & C

Tin sweetcorn = fibre, B vits, vitamin C, magnesium & potassium

Tin kidney beans = protein, fibre, vitamins K, B6 and C

Tin Ratatouille = antioxidants

Dried hard cheese = £1.00 (use another 1/5) = 20p


With more than 14 million people living in poverty including 4.5 million children more it’s apparent that more needs to be done to prevent the escalating health and wealth divide, ensuring that donations are healthy and well-thought out can really support an individual or families’ health and well-being, you could really help by thinking of some meal maths and planning the food you donate based on its nutritional value.

lts in the food parcel.


Food donations and sugar

One shocking report showed this energy breakdown from the food parcels analysed in the Oxfordshire area: -


62.2% of energy was provided as carbohydrate and 569% of the DRV (Daily Reference Value) was provided by sugar.


There are strong links between excess sugar consumption and both short and long-term ill-health. When we consider that many sugar-rich foods are also devoid of nutrients, (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, fibre etc – the elements which support health) food parcels high in these sugary foods are likely to be low on nutrients. . Those who need it most are being provided with food that may not support optimal health. It’s really important to focus on the nutrients contained within the parcel rather than foods you may consider ‘nice to have’. If you want to add in something sweet or if you think the parcel is for a family, add in some dried fruit such as apricots or raisins and some bars of dark chocolate, this will all provide a sweet ‘treat’ but also some fibre and antioxidants.


For more information visit: -

https://www.trusselltrust.org/

https://feedthehungry.org.uk/



Louise Mercieca

Nutritional Therapist

Personal Trainer

Early Years Nutrition Consultant

Award-winning Author

Food & Health Writer

Presenter on Early Years TV Food

Keynote speaker


www.thehealthkick.co.uk


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