Food poverty includes the availability and affordability of food in local areas. The U.K.’s food poverty rate is alarming, especially with the pandemic, which makes it hard for people to afford essential commodities. Families suffering from food poverty depend on emergency help from the country’s food banks. Food insecurity is a problem for many people since their income is too low or unstable. Low salaries, a shaky social security system, and benefit sanctions all contribute to this problem, making it difficult to pay for necessities like rent, gas, and food. Both the community and the government should take action to end the issue of food poverty. Food security could lead to a healthier society and reduce health inequities.
In 2022, nearly 2.5 million and 7.3 million adults experience food poverty in the U.K. The situation is expected to worsen. The food poverty crisis in the country is among the worst in Europe despite being the 6th wealthiest nation worldwide. The U.K. has an issue in areas with around 15,000 people serviced by only two or fewer supermarkets to stock the basic needs (Thompson, Smith, and Cummins 2018). These areas are often serviced by small convenience stores that are less likely to stock fresh and healthy products. The stores are also considerably expensive, which forces the disadvantaged population to go without healthy foods. Due to this situation, some families only afford unhealthy foodstuff like fries and soft drinks, which lacks the recommended nutrients, which expands the health inequities between the disadvantaged and the wealthy people in the U.K. Most people suffer from problems like hypertension and obesity as a result of unhealthy eating habits.
Obesity, malnutrition, high blood pressure, anaemia, and liver disease are caused by food insecurity in the United Kingdom. Efforts should be made to address all the health iniquities caused by food insecurities.
Twenty-eight per cent of adults in the U.K. are obese, and an additional 36 per cent are overweight. Men are more likely to be obese than women, with an 8 per cent difference. The rising cases of obesity are a significant challenge to public health. It is among the country’s leading preventable causes of death (Robinson et al., 2021). The more disadvantaged people are also more likely to suffer from obesity than the wealthy. The primary cause of obesity is the excessive intake of food energy. In the country, fast food restaurants account for a quarter of the total food outlets. People tend to purchase fast food as they are less expensive than healthier foods. The foods sold at the fast food joints are high in fats, causing increased B.M.I. The country is also saturated with street bakeries and coffee shops that sell drinks with sugar levels above the recommended amount. Processed foods rich in sugar, saturated fats and sugar are also readily available, contributing to the health issue. People believe that obesity is also caused by reduced physical activity and deterioration in family cooking skills. Physical activity in the U.K. declined as more people are employed in desk-bound jobs (Robinson et al.,2021). This causes people to spend more than 8 hours at a desk. Private cars are also the norm in most countries, reducing physical activity. The calories consumed by the consumption of fast foods exceed the calories burned while doing physical activities. This laxity causes an influx of calories in the human body, causing obesity.
Malnutrition is a condition caused by deficits, excesses and imbalances of energy and nutrients in the body. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened food poverty in the U.K., with some food banks reporting increased demand. According to a breakthrough study by Elia. and Stratton (2022) on food poverty, nearly 4 million British children live in families who cannot afford to buy enough fruits, vegetables, fish, and other nutritious items to meet the government’s stated nutrition requirements. Parents in almost 20 per cent of the population are affected by food insecurity. Women, infants and adolescents are the highest affected groups. Poverty increases the chances of malnutrition. The disadvantaged people in the U.K. have the highest number of malnutrition. The malnutrition cases led to the rise of diseases like anaemia, especially in pregnant women and infants.
The high cost of commodities in the country led to people purchasing food due to their affordability rather than their nutritional value. Health care expenses rise, productivity falls, and economic growth is slowed due to malnutrition, creating a vicious circle of poverty and disease. The malnutrition problem in the country is evident as many children joining the primary school are underweight (Stratton, Smith. and Gabe, 2018). Almost three million children face malnutrition during school breaks as they no longer have access to free meals given at school. Headteachers report that many children have poor teeth, grey skin and look thinner due to deficiency diseases, a condition referred to as stunting. The children are usually sluggish and lack concentration even in their studies.
All aspects of society must unite to fight the pandemic to achieve positive change in the obesity problem. The public sector, educational institutions, commercial enterprises, non-profit organisations, and individual homes and families have to contribute to the effort. The first remedy constitutes reducing the consumption of unhealthy foodstuff. Individuals should create an environment that promotes healthy culture and consumption of healthy foods. People should stop the consumption of fast foods and drinks with excess sugar and embrace vegetables. Eating a calorie-controlled meal can help reduce weight gain. People should also consume food with a limit to ensure they do not overfeed. In this sector, the government can strive to reduce the price of healthy food to ensure even disadvantaged people can afford healthy meals. They can also impose taxes and legislation on fast food restaurants and bakeries that serve soft drinks. The taxes can effectively reduce the number of fast food joints in the country.
Doctors recommend limiting sit-in times. These sit-in times include screen time and work hours. It would be practical to exercise for at least two hours a week as exercises help burn excess calories in the body. Some of the effective physical activities that burn calories include jogging and swimming (Robinson et al.,2021). Walking to and from work or school can also be used as exercise. In schools, the government can sponsor sports activities students can engage in during their free time. Sports activities should also be mandatory in all schools, with a minimum of three weekly practice hours.
Malnutrition treatment is dependent on the underlying cause and the extent of malnutrition. The most common solution to malnutrition is dietary change and supplement intake. Children’s malnutrition is often a result of long-term health issues which necessitate hospitalisation and the use of drugs. Children are encouraged to consume foods rich in energy and vitamins instead of consuming more to balance the body’s needs. Often malnutrition is caused by a lack of healthy foods. Eating three meals a day is also recommended with an additional snack. Government intervention could be productive in addressing malnutrition. Free markets and improved agriculture can produce plenty of foodstuff for all people. An increase in food production will reduce the price of food and ensure all households afford to eat healthily. The government can provide foodstuff to families with malnourished children. The government can also provide vitamin and mineral supplements to disadvantaged families to help them transition into healthier lifestyles.
People suffering from the condition should seek medical advice to identify the cause of malnutrition, as certain medical conditions can result in malnutrition. These conditions weaken the ability of the body to absorb nutrients and reduce appetite. Such conditions include liver disease and cancer (Stratton, Smith and Gabe, 2018). Some people with mental illnesses can also not look after their food intake. Consulting a doctor to find the cause is a first step towards becoming healthy. The government can set up free regular medical checkups to ensure a healthy population. These camps diagnose common diseases that could potentially lead to malnutrition.
Food poverty can be triggered by a financial crisis in the state or personal circumstances. When faced with a financial crisis, the first thing to be withdrawn is usually food budget. Most people cut food budgets to accommodate other expenses like rent and tuition. Food poverty negatively affects people’s health, including a high risk of dietary-caused illnesses like anaemia. This is because affordable foods often contain fat and sugar but lack nutrients like iron. Food poverty challenges the provision of quality care to children and adolescents. Lack of access to fresh food, food storage, and cooking facilities worsens health. It exacerbates already-existing health and social issues. With the increase of people affected by food poverty, children and pregnant women are more at risk as they have weak systems. Food poverty affects people differently, with families with more than three children and the Blacks being affected more. Modern food poverty should be unacceptable, and the government should aim to reduce socioeconomic inequities so that all people can afford basic needs. Communities are also at the forefront of addressing food poverty, with many schools offering lunch to children from disadvantaged families. People should push for local authorities and the government to take action toward ending hunger. This effort would ensure all individuals access healthy food.
Thompson, C., Smith, D. and Cummins, S.J.S.S., 2018. Understanding the health and wellbeing challenges of the food banking system: A qualitative study of food bank users, providers and referrers in London. Social Science & Medicine, 211, pp.95-101.
Elia, M. and Stratton, R.J., 2022. Reflections on a seminal article on malnutrition published in the British Journal of Nutrition, 2004. British Journal of Nutrition, pp.1-7.
Stratton, R., Smith, T. and Gabe, S., 2018. Managing malnutrition to improve lives and save money. On behalf of B.A.P.E.N. (British Society of Enteral and Parenteral Nutrition).
Robinson, E., Boyland, E., Chisholm, A., Harrold, J., Maloney, N.G., Marty, L., Mead, B.R., Noonan, R. and Hardman, C.A., 2021. Obesity, eating behaviour and physical activity during COVID-19 lockdown: A study of U.K. adults. Appetite, 156, p.104853.