TRADERS at Bolton Market have hit out at claims that eating healthily is too expensive.
Public health experts said parents were choosing “cheap food that is filling but not nutritious” and have called on the government to act.
Professor John Ashton, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health (FPH), said: “Children are going hungry in the UK. They may not be eating gruel but their parents are having to choosing cheap food that is filling but not nutritious.
“This crisis can’t be explained away by assuming people are not budgeting properly or don’t know how to cook.”
Yet traders in Bolton said it was possible to eat healthily on a budget.
Charlotte Ray runs a fruit and veg stall and says education is key to eating a healthy diet on a budget.
Mrs Ray, of Emporium Cheeses, said: “I think it is definitely possible for people to eat healthily on a budget. People use the excuse that they can’t afford to eat fresh fruit and veg, but you only have to come to the market to find bargains.
“I think it’s about education and the way you are brought up.”
Butcher Steve Wildblood, of Redman’s, said: “Of course people on lower incomes can eat a good diet. The good thing about shopping at the market is that you can buy the exact portion you want, and if you’re on a budget that must help.”
The FPH is now calling on the government to set up an independent group to tackle nutrition and hunger in the UK.
In a letter signed by 170 members of the FPH, the faculty pointed to rising food prices, falling wages and a boom in food banks as proof of the problem.
Mr Ashton added: “We have to face an uncomfortable truth: we may be facing a public health emergency in the UK. The spectre of Oliver Twist is back.
“There are three main reasons for the increased demand for food banks: increasing food poverty, stagnant income and wages among low-paid people and the rising cost of food.”
The largest food bank provider, the Trussell Trust, has said demand for its help had doubled in the past 12 months.
The Trussell Trust claims it has handed out 913,000 food parcels across the UK in the last year, up from 347,000 the year before.
The Farnworth and Kearsley Foodbank fed more than 3,700 people in Bolton in the past year.
A CHEAP RECIPE
Spring vegetable soup
Feeds: six to eight
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 2 carrots, scrubbed and roughly chopped
- 2 sticks celery, washed and sliced
- 2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 200g cauliflower, broken into small florets
- 200g broccoli, broken into florets
- 200g spinach, washed and roughly chopped
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 chicken or vegetable stock cubes made up with 1.75 litres water
- black pepper
Method: Add oil, carrots, celery, onion and garlic cook over a low to medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes until carrots soften and onions golden.
Add all remaining ingredients and stock (apart from the spinach) bring to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the spinach to the pan cook for 30 seconds. Season with black pepper.
If you prefer a less chunky soup, remove half to another pan and blend, then return to big pan.
Recipe thanks to Joan Burriage who runs the Wellbeing Project at Bolton Market.