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Monday, 29 December 2014

Millions of Britons facing malnutrition and relying on food banks

The Independent

Millions of the poorest people in Britain are struggling to get enough food to maintain their body weight, according to official figures published this month.

The Government's Family Food report reveals that the poorest 10 per cent of the population - some 6.4 million people - ate an average of 1,997 calories a day last year, compared with the average guideline figure of about 2,080 calories. This data covers all age groups.

One expert said the figures were a "powerful marker" that there is a problem with food poverty in Britain and it was clear there were "substantial numbers of people who are going hungry and eating a pretty miserable diet".

The use of food banks in the UK has surged in recent years. The Trussell Trust, a charity which runs more than 400 food banks, said it had given three days worth of food, and support, to more than 492,600 people between April and September this year, up 38 per cent on the same period in 2013.

Based on an annual survey of 6,000 UK households, the Family Food report said the population as a whole was consuming 5 per cent more calories than required. Tables of figures attached to the report reveal the average calorie consumption for the poorest 10 per cent, but the report itself did not highlight this.

Chris Goodall, an award-winning author who writes about energy, discovered the figures while investigating human use of food resources. "The data absolutely shocked me. What it shows is for the first time since the Second World War, if you are poor you cannot afford to eat sufficient calories," he said.

He also highlights a widening consumption gap between rich and poor. In 2012, there was little difference, with the richest 10th consuming a total of 2,420 calories daily, about 4 per cent more than the poorest. But in 2013, the richest group consumed 2,294 calories, about 15 per cent more than the poorest.

The report, published by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, also found that the poorest people spent 22 per cent more on food in 2013 than in 2007 but received 6.7 per cent less.  

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