A nutrient famine has already arrived

Almost a third of children aged 5-10 year eat less than one portion of veg a day.

That deeply worrying stat is one of many others in the Food Foundation 2021 Veg Facts.

For a significant proportion of the UK population, a de facto nutrient famine has arrived. Among the many causes of this concerning state of affairs are the following:

Fruit and vegetables provide us with the nutrients and fibre we need for a healthy life. As we said in this blogpost, we need, not five-a-day portions, but ten portions a day, with more vegetables than fruit.

A low-nutrient diet for children has life-long consequences on their bodies and minds. The effect is greater the younger you are. Indeed, poor diet in the first 1000 days of life from conception has been shown to affect not just individuals, also GDP.

Why? Because nutrients are essential in early neurological development . . . which affects cognition . . . which affects educational achievement . . . which affects the workplace.

Nutrient dense foods are costly to produce. Growing produce requires land, soil, water and energy. Plus time to plant, nurture and harvest fresh fruit and veg, as it does to look after livestock and poultry. Moreover, most of these products are highly perishable, so need careful storage, packaging and sometimes other processing, plus transportation from the farm and onwards to the retail or catering outlet.

To grasp the scale and complexity of all that, take a look at this brief video, thinking all the while that there are costs involved at every stage:

Many millions of us cannot afford to eat healthily
If households don’t have the income to buy even five-a-day per person (let alone the healthy 10-a-day), then inevitably they will be malnourished.

We know that many couldn’t before the pandemic, and that the situation has gravely worsened. To our knowledge, we don’t know the extent of malnourishment among the population, but input evidence suggests it is severe. And we do have a grasp of the individual and social costs of diet-related morbidities; see this pre-Covid blogpost about the economic costs.


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