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Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 17:14 GMT
Poorer children miss out on healthy food
Children eating
Two million children are at risk of poor diets and hunger
About two million children in the UK are living in families who cannot afford to eat healthily, says a report.

Low income families know what healthy food they should buy but many struggle to afford even the basics, according to the charity Child Poverty Action Group.

The fact that many families in Britain cannot afford to eat enough or eat well is shameful

Martin Barnes, director of the Child Poverty Action Group
It is calling for the government to do more to help such families, in a report published on Thursday.

The charity found the two million children who live in households on income support are more likely to suffer from a poor or monotonous diet and hunger.

Wealth gap

Martin Barnes, director of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: "The fact that many families in Britain cannot afford to eat enough or eat well is shameful.

Poorer families know about healthy food but cannot afford it
He said the report challenged the myth that low-income families have only themselves to blame for food poverty.

"While most of us do not think twice about when or where to buy food, for many parents feeding themselves and their children is a cause of anxiety, stress and hardship."

The report said that the richest families spend more than 100 a week on food, the poorest spend just 25.

A couple on income support with two children who receive less than 163 would need to spend 61 on food to meet government healthy eating guidelines.

Cash needed

The solution, says the report, is to give families with children more money and better access to healthy food through community food initiatives and free school meals for all children.

But the poorest 10% of households spend the highest proportion of their income on food - 21% of income against 14% for the richest 10% of households.

Spending on food is often cut to avoid debts, or to meet essential demands such as gas, electricity or rent.

On Thursday Chancellor Gordon Brown met religious and charity leaders in moves to form what he calls a new "national coalition" against child poverty.

The government has already claimed to have taken a million children out of poverty since its election.

But a study earlier this week challenged this assertion.

The charity, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and New Policy Institute, found one in three children in the UK were still living in poverty, despite government progress towards tackling social exclusion.

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown
"There is still a great deal to be done"
New Policy Institute's Guy Palmer
"The figures are disappointing but not surprising"
See also:

13 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Brown urges poverty coalition
13 Dec 01 | UK
Dangers of a poor diet
21 May 01 | Health
Children 'breakfast on junk food'
09 Feb 01 | Health
Toddlers getting fatter
23 Feb 01 | Health
Child poverty 'high in the UK'
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