Published October 14, 2020
It’s easy to think about what you want to eat and when you want to eat it. Making healthy, tasty choices is not always that simple, particularly if you are dependent on a low income, or if you live in a country or area of the world where produce is not a matter of choice, more of necessity.
Over 2 billion people worldwide have no ability to source healthy, nutritious and sustainable foodstuffs, and around 15% of foods that are grown or raised never even reach the consumer, and simply fall by the wayside, unused. Organisations that provide food banks for damaged but edible goods go a long way to helping world food shortage, but it is still not enough.
Countries can have some of the prime healthcare services in the world, yet if your socio-economic status is low, it can be difficult to look after your wellbeing and eat the right nutrients that you can glean from food, not excluding inadequate or poor water supply. There is no doubt that exceptionally low status will cause severe illnesses and early mortality, particularly in children and the elderly.
It’s all about balance
Living on the breadline is one issue, but another factor is ‘you are what you eat’. If a mindset is ‘we have enough food to eat’, this does not solve the problem. Eating the wrong foods is almost as life-threatening as having little food to survive on. Obesity is a key factor in early mortality rates.
Nutrient-dense foods are an integral part of living a healthy life, but often foods such as fruit and vegetables can be expensive. Rather than have nothing to eat, families on low incomes will often turn to foods that ‘fill you up’ – these are normally high in saturated fat and empty carbohydrates, which can cause weight gain and even obesity. But, they can be so inexpensive in the grand budgetary scheme. It’s very unfortunate, but it is a fact. A great deal of the world lives on a carbohydrate filled diet, as items such as rice and starchy foods are normally the cheapest to buy.
In the UK, the average spend for a family of 4, is £81.40 per week, according to the ONS (Office of National Statistics). Considering that this equates to 28 meals per week (be it packed lunches, breakfasts or dinners and a few treats), that is incredibly low and certainly would not include a third of your trolley containing fruit and vegetables that have high nutritional value.
What is SES and how does it affect our health?
SES (Socio-Economic Standards) either a single factor or grouped together, are defined as those who are poorly educated, impoverished or with a low income. This will almost definitely have an impact on both physical and mental health. Distribution of income and the environment in which people live has a direct effect on each person’s wellbeing and lifespan, as do lifestyle choices.
Even though there is a percentage of poverty and low income in Western countries, those living in certain areas of Africa or India say, are more likely to have health problems or die young, such as
- Environmental issues
- Extreme climates
- Lack of nutritious food
- Poor clean water supply
- Lack of sanitation
The world still has a long way to go.
What are governments and health authorities doing about the problem?
Almost 10 years ago, the WHO (World Health Organisation) created the 25 x 25 initiative to which member states signed up. This plan is intended to decrease the level of illness and mortality due to non-communicable diseases by 25% by the year 2025.
However, this did not include the high risk socio-economic factors, and there has been a heavily reported ‘cry out’ for this to be an integral part of the plan, according to The Lancet, one of the worlds’ leading medical periodicals.
Furthermore, putting focus on the issues with initiatives such as World Health Day, will see more urgent requests for organisations to act on the following critical issues:
- The future of our food supply – we should be able to provide economical and healthy diets for the worlds’ population, and improve incomes for those working in the food system
- Improve nutrition, encourage more plant growth along with sustainability and biodiversity
- Educate and improve conditions for the smaller farming communities
The cost to the world caused by dietary deficiencies, malnutrition and other related illnesses is estimated to be in the region US$3.5 billion. For those of us that can, improve your diet, and for those that struggle to eat a broad selection of nutritional food, let’s hope that as a planet, we can and will improve this.
Written by Bev Walton
Food Writer and Nutritionist, dietician
A chef of over 35 years with experience in all types of cuisine, dietary plans, recipe development, health and nutrition. I have been writing for over 10 years for both magazines, websites and ghostwriting for ebooks, Kindle and fully published books. I have a degree in nutrition and dietetics and work with restaurants and organisations within the healthcare profession. I am also able to take high quality photographs of recipes created. No writing task is too great, and whilst I specialise in the above, I am able to write about any topic you throw at me. Member of the Guild of food writers.