A new report from The Food Foundation highlights the need for better support for low-income families to help them achieve a more climate-friendly diet.
If the UK is to meet its net zero target by 2050 The Food Foundation says ‘greenhouse gas emissions from the food system will need to be reduced by shifting UK diets (so they contain more plant foods and fewer animal foods) and reducing food waste’.
But its report questions whether ‘reducing the emissions footprint of UK diets is equally achievable for different income groups’, pointing to the ‘price premium’ of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives as a barrier to low-income families making the shift away from high-emission animal-based diets.
The Food Foundation highlights that while fruit and veg costs an average of £11.79 per 1,000 calories, animal-based foods cost £8.00 for the same volume.
“Although existing studies looking at average diets and modelling the required changes suggest that, in theory, low emission diets can be affordable, the briefing identifies that in practice such diets can be more expensive and inaccessible for low-income households,” says The Food Foundation.
The Government’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey figures confirm that the lowest-earning households consume less fruit and veg; 58% get their five-a-day compared to 88% in higher-income families.
The briefing highlights an opportunity for pulses and legumes – which represent less expensive sources of protein than meat – but points to ‘poor availability’ and ‘low levels of familiarity’ as reasons for minimal purchase and consumption of chickpeas, beans and lentils in the UK.
The Food Foundation is encouraging businesses to make pulses and fresh produce ‘more affordable, available and appealing’, and urging Government to ‘use fiscal incentives to rebalance the cost of the basket – eg removing VAT from plant-base milk alternatives’. Wider promotion of fruit, veg and legume consumption, the group says, should include strengthened support for the UK horticulture sector and improved public procurement strategy. It also suggests businesses should ‘improve and invest in the taste and nutritional profile’ of plant-based meat alternatives.