Food Poverty – A challenge

Feed four people for £3.00

We are lucky in this house. Every saturday we pile into the car, pick up mother-in-law and go to the supermarket to buy the week’s supplies.

I do shop carefully, checking prices, buying the bigger pack if it’s cheaper or the smaller pack if that works out cheaper (which, weirdly it often does). I try to buy seasonally for fruit and veg and buy British if it’s available.  However, when we have finished we normally have a trolley with enough food to feed us well throughout the week.

Our cupboards are full and our freezer more so. Our food shopping is supplemented in the summer and autumn by our veg patch. I can make biscuits or cake whenever I like as I always have the ingredients ready in the cupboard.  We can afford to buy chocolate and a bottle of wine or two.

I realise how lucky we are and I have been thinking about those who aren’t as fortunate and who are living in food poverty.

According to research funded by Kellogs and carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research in March 2013 4.7 million people in the UK are living in food poverty. The definition is based on having no choice but to spend more than 10% of the household income on food. The UK’s poorest households spend almost a quarter of their income on food. The richest households spend an average of 4% of their income on food. Single parent households and those in vulnerable groups such as the elderly are those most likely to be in food poverty. With the rising costs of food, spending has increased by about 20% but the volume of food that you can buy for that money has dropped by 7%.

Most weeks whilst shopping I notice that at least one of our weekly items has increased in price. Last week, for example, I noticed that the supermarket brand strong bread flour had gone from £1.00 to £1.21 – in the space of a week. I am not sure whether this is due to an increase in the cost of wheat or the Paul Hollywood effect. I really hope it’s not the latter.

A food bank opened recently in our town to help people who really struggle to feed themselves and their families on their budget. I intend to volunteer regularly with the food bank and to donate food too.

This week The Guardian reported that in the UK more then 350,000 people used food banks last year – 100,000 more than anticipated and this number is expected to continue rising. The research was carried out by The Trussel Trust. The trust currently manages 345 food banks but state that between 400 and 650 more are needed to feed those in need.

But food banks, whilst much needed to help those in crisis can’t be the only answer to the problem. There needs to be structural changes made at a more fundamental level so that people aren’t forced into living on the handouts of a food bank.

Nancy from Good Food Matters has been involved with food activism and food banks for a long time and she has done much to raise awareness of food poverty. She talked about the action that American food bloggers are taking  and recently posted a recipe that you could make if you had a budget of only $4 a day, which is a situation faced by 1 in 6 Americans on a daily basis. Nancy regularly inspires me with her writing and her food but never more so than when she discusses the need for action to stop food poverty.

This morning an email dropped into my inbox from Health Poverty Action asking if I would take part in the 2013 Live Below the Line Campaign which asks people to live on a £1 food budget for five days to raise awareness of food poverty all over the world. This is extreme food poverty that is experienced by many all over the world every day. The official five days are between 29th April-3rd May 2013. I can’t commit to these five days as I already have plans which would spoil the £1 a day for five days commitment but next week I intend to cook a few meals that can be cooked on a minimal budget and blog about them here. If you would like to take part in the challenge then click on the link above and sign up today.

Food poverty is an issue which affects many people every day and I realise how lucky I am to be able to buy the food that my family chooses to eat.

I welcome your thoughts on how food poverty could be tackled.

Now for the challenge. If you have a recipe for a meal that will feed a family of four for £3 (or under) then I would like you to share it with me. You can post it on your own blog and then contact me (kath at theordinarycook dot co dot uk) and I will do a round up on this blog at the end of May. If you don’t have a blog but have a recipe that you would like to share then get in touch and I will include your recipe in the round up. Please submit your links or recipes to me by Friday 24th May 2013. 

I hope that you will be able to join me in raising awareness of food poverty.



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18 thoughts on “Food Poverty – A challenge”

  1. Like you, I would like to be part of the Live Below the Line challenge, but I too can’t do this until well after the chosen dates, because we’ll be travelling or with friends in England. I’ll aim to submit a recipe or two before we go. Thanks for firming up my intention. I was allowing the fact that the dates didn’t fit to discourage me into inaction.

      1. Right, I’ll get down to that. A good moment to revive ‘The Pauper’s Cookbook’, my bible as a student, and in the news at the moment following the death of the wonderful Jocasta Innes.

  2. Well said. I have a couple of recipes that fit the bill I think, I will send you them. It is almost impossible to imagine living day after day on £1. I am going to join you on this xxx

  3. Hi Kath, Thank you for sharing your experiences and concerns about food poverty. It does help if we can spread the awareness—and share healthful, affordable recipes. You are welcome to use any of my recipes. All my best to you and yours, Nancy

  4. Great post Kath. Despite thinking I know about many of these issues, I was truly shocked to read that 1/6th of those in the richest nation in the world only has $4 a day to spend on food – that is outrageous. We are still the 7th richest country in the world – we really shouldn’t need food banks. It’s such a huge issue, I’m not at all sure how you go about tackling it, but reducing gardens and allotments as we’ve been doing for decades now, certainly isn’t going to help. My grandparents lived in a council house with a large family and very little money, but they had a large garden and grew masses which kept them fully supplied with potatoes and veg. How many council houses have large gardens now I wonder.

    Dal using split red lentils is so delicious and so cheap. Eaten with brown rice, it makes for a complete protein and is highly nutritious. Chuck in some onions, garlic and spinach (or nettles) and a few spices and it turns into one of my favourite meals.

    1. Choc, absolutely! We have a garden share scheme locally through the Transition Towns project which is a small step towards helping people to have access to fresh produce. I think both cooking and gardening lessons at school are essential to helping people develop skills that will help them eat healthily throughout their lives.
      I was inspired by you last night and made dal for tea. I haven’t made it for years (I don’t know why, I guess it just fell off the radar) but we really enjoyed it.

  5. Good post Kath. I shall have to ask my two ex-uni students but I fear they would answer ‘pot noodle’. I too feel very lucky to be able to eat well, but I do hate waste. I always reach for items at the back of the shelf with the longest ‘eat by’ date on them, so that they last us longer. xCathy

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