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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Parents cannot afford 'good food'
Parents have gone hungry to feed their children
A leading children's charity has claimed that many families in Scotland are unable to afford a healthy diet.

NCH has published research showing that one in five of all parents say lack of money sometimes makes it impossible to feed their children properly.

Researchers found that almost half of parents on a low income said they had had to go hungry in the past year.

The charity claims a typical basket of healthy food costs 17% more than a basket of unhealthy food.

Fresh fruit

The Going Hungry report, a snapshot of low-income families from across the UK, said the situation was getting worse.

The price of convenience food is going up more slowly than items such as fresh fruit.

Over the last 15 years, the average cost of a healthy shopping basket has increased by half, compared to only a 33% increase for an unhealthy basket.

According to the report, a quarter of children never eat green vegetables or salad.

NCH is calling on the government to pay much greater attention to the impact of poverty on children's diets.

Going Hungry shows that the government needs to do much, much more if it is to put healthy food within the reach of children
Christopher Holmes
NCH Scotland

David Turnbull, director of the charity in Scotland, told BBC Radio Scotland that the research highlighted a continuing problem for a small group of people on the lowest incomes.

He said: "In many respects the government's policy of moving people into work and out of poverty is a solid one, but it does mean that those on the lowest income are under the most pressure.

"Healthy food costs more and people sometimes have to go for the cheapest option. It's a vicious circle that people are caught in.

"A lot of people live away from out-of-town food retailers and have to depend on local shops where prices are higher, so they are paying an added premium.

"Basically the poorest people have to pay the most for their food."

'Action needed'

Christopher Holmes, director of children's services for NCH Scotland, added: "It is right to be concerned about rising levels of childhood obesity - but NCH's new report shows that it's unfair to place all the blame on parents and children.

"The comparatively high cost of healthy food and sophisticated marketing used to encourage children to eat junk food are also significant factors.

This report is a damning indictment of the poverty and inequality that exists in 2004 in a wealthy country like Scotland
Frances Curran
Scottish Socialist MSP
"Going Hungry shows that the government needs to do much, much more if it is to put healthy food within the reach of children.

"Action is needed in schools, in the community and within the food industry. Most of all, the government must make healthy food affordable to low-income families.

"Otherwise, drives to end child poverty and improve the nation's health are set to fail."

National action plan

NCH is calling on food retailers and manufacturers to reduce salt, sugar and fat levels in food for children, improve labelling, remove snacks from supermarket checkouts and only promote healthy food.

The charity also wants the government to develop a national action plan to stamp out food poverty.

Scottish Socialist Party MSP Frances Curran said: "This report is a damning indictment of the poverty and inequality that exists in 2004 in a wealthy country like Scotland.

"It also spotlights the disgusting hypocrisy of well-fed Scottish Executive ministers such as Frank McAveety, who earns 70,000-plus a year, benefit from a subsidised parliamentary canteen providing fresh, healthy food at knock-down prices, while thousands of children live on a diet of cheap, high-fat, high-salt convenience foods."

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30 Mar 04  |  Scotland
Warning over child poverty policy
09 Dec 03  |  Scotland
Child poverty figures challenged
18 Nov 02  |  Scotland
Child poverty claims spark row
16 Nov 02  |  Scotland

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