“Healthy food is a luxury”

Public back greater government intervention to ensure everyone can eat healthy food

26th March 2024

A new poll commissioned by the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC) unearths the real food crisis in Britain.

  • Four in five (80%) believe healthy food is something that everyone should be able to have, yet only 8% think it is affordable to most people.
  • In this election year, the British public sees healthy food as a fundamental duty of the Government - 68% say it is the Government’s job to make sure healthy food is affordable amidst increasing financial pressures and a worsening food environment.
  • The FFCC launch an unprecedented UK-wide food conversation, bringing together citizens across all four countries to join in-depth workshops and deliberation designed to determine solutions. Partnerships with a wide range of organisations will further extend the reach and scale of the project – ultimately engaging thousands of people.

Today, we launch the next phase of The Food Conversation to find urgent solutions to Britain’s growing food crisis. A series of in-depth citizen workshops will take place across the UK, including in marginal seats, bringing together a representative group of citizens to ask what people want from food and how they want to see things change.

To kick off, the FFCC commissioned new polling in partnership with non-profit research organisation More in Common, which reveals the stark reality of Britain’s food crisis: healthy food is now seen as out of reach for the majority. Four in five (80%) believe healthy food is something everyone should be able to have, yet only 8% think it is affordable to most people.

Almost half (49%) stated that financial pressures have made them cut back on the quality of food they eat. The research thus reflects a worsening food environment in the United Kingdom, where an estimated 11.3m people nationwide experience food insecurity. This is most acute in low-income areas, with an estimated 1.2 million people living in ‘food deserts’ where affordable, fresh food is severely limited.

Sue Pritchard, CEO of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission said,

“Of all the elements of our everyday economy, one of the things we simply cannot manage without is healthy food. How did this basic necessity become a luxury that few can afford? Food is at the centre of some of the biggest challenges this country faces and for many people, eating enough healthy food is becoming impossible. A smart and strategic government will prioritise action across the whole food chain, from farm to fork. And what we’re hearing from citizens is that this would be a real vote winner.

For starters, people tell us they are concerned about the inequalities of a system that means poor children will live shorter lives than rich ones. They are sympathetic to the challenges facing family farmers who are dealing with the impacts of climate change on their businesses. And they are worried about an NHS buckling under the pressure of diet-related ill health.

‘While difficult – this is all fixable. And as we talk to people all around the UK, it’s clear that citizens see the problem and want the Government to take control of a situation that has become untenable.”

Kicking off the next phase of The Food Conversation

The poll took place alongside the first citizen workshop for The Food Conversation, which brought a representative sample of citizens from across the UK together to discuss how we grow, make and eat food.

During the workshop Yasmeen Shah, 54, from Glasgow said: “The majority of people are trying to eat food that is healthier and more sustainable, but the odds are stacked against them. We need to bring this system in order, to ensure there is fairness from farm to fork.”

Kevin Robson, 52, from Sunderland said: “What we are currently seeing is that profits are prioritised over people. We need to flip this.”

Healthy food is essential for a fair society

A significant majority support a wide-ranging set of government actions to remedy Britain's food crisis and drive root and branch change, including:

  • For farmers: 62% want greater intervention to ensure farmers are treated fairly.
  • For children’s health: 60% want greater intervention to protect children from unhealthy and ultra processed foods.

When asked about basic rights that are essential for a fair society, 80% of the public ranked access to ‘healthy food’ as vital – second only to access to healthcare – and well above ‘home ownership’ (52%), an issue traditionally prioritised by Government. This shows the public’s holistic understanding of how issues in the food system relate to other societal sectors – dots yet to be connected by policymakers.