Providing choices for people with none
Amy Leech - 18 February 2013
The prevalence of obesity in the most deprived 10% of the population is approximately twice that of the least deprived 10%. Is there any wonder?
Today’s report on obesity from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges identifies a “food culture in which highly calorific food is available at literally, pocket money prices". It’s easier and cheaper to eat badly. If you want cheap calories you are not going to grab a handful of good for you grapes – crisps, chocolate, or cake cost less and go further to top up your calories.
The horsemeat scandal has served to highlight the inadequacies of a food system driven by profit, and the fact that it’s those buying the cheapest food who are falling victim to them.
Processed food makes money. But, it does not make us well. As a Guardian commenter said today: “Can you remember an advert for broccoli, or any drink or foodstuff that was actually good for you?”
I’m glad to see the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, a united front of health professionals, aiming to “uncompromisingly address large commercial concerns” – calling as they do for a tax on sugary drinks and to reign in junk food advertising to kids.
It’s true that eating well isn’t made easy for us. But it’s even harder when your menu is decided for you. As Mary Creagh, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural affairs, said about the horsemeat scandal on Newsnight last week – if you are child at school or a patient in the hospital or a prisoner in a prison you can’t choose what you eat.
Making healthy eating possible for people with no choice has been a priority of the Soil Association for many years. Now, as a result of our work, 57 local authorities, including over half of London’s boroughs, are already standing up for their pupils and patients by insisting on Food for Life Catering Mark standards for quality and traceability in their meal services.
In 2009 the Soil Association took up the challenge of transforming catering across the UK by putting quality and transparency back on the menu. The Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark is the UK’s only independent accreditation scheme setting standards of traceability, quality and provenance for public sector meals and inspecting caterers to ensure that standards are met. The scheme accredits over 650,000 meals a day, including food in 20% of schools in England and the UK’s largest chain of nurseries. The Catering Mark can also be found guaranteeing standards in workplaces, universities, visitor attractions and restaurants.
Our work ensures that everyone – rich or poor – has the choice of healthy and traceable food. Good food is a right not a privilege.
Amy is Research Assistant at the Soil Association.