I am very lucky. I can afford to eat well and healthily. By virtue of this site I am fortunate enough to be given most of the food I eat, which reduces my spending on food considerably. When we borrowed Ed’s sister’s house for a holiday last year I was horrified at just how much fresh fruit and vegetables can cost in the smaller supermarkets; the ones which do not stock the savers / economy / essentials ranges.
I like to eat lots of fresh produce, way above the recommended 5 a day – typically I start most days with a green smoothie, which is probably at least four portions in my first meal of the day. If I do not eat enough fresh produce my body complains fairly rapidly. Digestive discomfort and bad sleep and broken concentration come quickly.
The Guardian had an excellent piece on food poverty in December, people are buying less of expensive fruit and vegetables and buying cheaper filling food. The poorest 10% eat an average of just 107g of fruit a day – about one portion, compared to the richest 10% who eat an average of 227g of fruit. The resultant effects on health and cost to the NHS, business and industry must be staggering.
In my patch of West London there is an excellent market – plentiful fruit and vegetables for £1 a scoop, and my local fruit and vegetable co-op (which I have been going to for nearly 2 years). The co-op buys in bulk from the market traders and redistributes it. Prices have just gone up – £4 buys a bag of fruit or a bag of vegetables. I could probably get the same quantity as shown above for £8 from the market but there would not be the variety.
Of course in an ideal world I would prefer to only buy British, seasonal (and possibly organic) fruit and vegetables. I’d have my box delivered of seasonal organic produce (still encrusted with mud for added authenticity) once per week and pat myself on the back for doing the right thing. HOWEVER I strongly believe that by buying from and supporting the co-op I am doing the better thing. The more that use it, the more buying power they have and the more it will benefit those who really need it. The people who are in food poverty and who go hungry and simply cannot afford the healthy food that so many of us take for granted. I’ll worry about food miles, seasonality and organic when everyone can afford to buy the food they need to stay healthy.
So, what can you do? Try out your local co-op – they are run by Sustain Web – a directory can be found here. If you have a veg box maybe take a few weeks break and try buying from a food co-op. Most importantly tell people about the scheme, in fact shout about it, the more that know about them the more that can benefit. Or try to volunteer at a food bank.
A few other ways to help the problem of food poverty are here.