The Food Foundation’s flagship Broken Plate report released this month highlighted the inaffordability and inaccessibility of a healthy diet for the poorest 20% of UK households, emphasising the impact of the cost of living crisis.

The Broken Plate report examines the impact of the health of our food system on our lives. Various metrics including price, affordability and availability are assessed. Price and affordability are key determinants of the food people choose to purchase and with rises in food prices driven by COVID-19, the war in Ukraine and Brexit, food insecurity is rising dramatically.

The report found that healthy food is nearly three times more expensive than unhealthy products, which disproportionately affects families on low incomes. Fruit and vegetables are the most expensive Eatwell Guide food category and on average costs £10.56 per 1,000kcal compared to high fat, sugar and/or salt foods which cost £4.50 per 1,000kcal. This increase in cost of micronutrient-dense foods leaves households unable to access a varied, nutritious diet for their families.

A key finding from the report was that the poorest fifth of UK households would need to spend 47% of their disposable income on food to achieve a healthy diet, compared to 11% of the richest fifth. Between March 2021 and March 2022, food prices rose by 8.6% despite benefits and wages not reflecting this increase. Qualitative data from the report found that incentives such as free school meal vouchers haven’t risen in line with recent food price increases and inflation, meaning less food is available for purchase per child following the pandemic.

Interestingly, the cost of plant-based alternatives to milk was investigated and the findings show that alternative milks are approximately 60% more expensive than dairy milk. Compared to dairy milk, oat and rice alternatives are 0.79p and 0.72p more expensive per litre, and soya is 0.31p more expensive. This highlights how price is a barrier to choosing more sustainable food options, plus indicates that those with intolerances and allergies have to spend more on food choices.

Read the Food Foundations Broken Plate report here.