July 30, 2020
This week the government released a report that is its starting point for a new obesity strategy. In summary: you’re probably overweight, especially if you’re poor. 
Cheap Fruit And Vegetables Wont Help Britains Obesity Crisis
The report reads: “Children in the most deprived parts of the country are more than twice as likely to be obese as their peers living in the richest areas,” which surprised a total of zero people.
For most it confirmed one of two things; if you’re poor you’re to be patronised: clearly you don’t understand that pot noodle isn’t a vegetable. Or they’re to be pitied: they can’t afford the nutrients they need. 
And it’s true, if fruit and vegetables were cheaper more people would have access to them, but they’ll never be a treat.The government’s obesity plan treats food as something only to keep you going, rather than something to be enjoyed.Being on a beach drinking a cocktail from a hollowed-out pineapple is a treat – a pineapple isn’t a treat.
The problem is not only that nutritious food is expensive and that junk food is cheap, it’s that people live with such limited resources that the only treat they can afford is something from the confectionary aisle. 
We’d often eat pizza for dinner when I was growing up, sometimes twice a week. The pizza was 99p and depending on how much change was left in “the tin” in the kitchen I’d have a whole one to myself or it would be halved and shared.
The pizza was frozen with spongy dough thick as two fingers, the tomato sauce was thick and tasted like tomato puree and when the cheese melted it set again with an unnatural sheen like condensation on a window. It was what you would expect a 99p pizza to taste like, but it was a treat, nonetheless. 
Your appetite for nice things isn’t suspended when your credit card is. And, if you’re a parent with no money you spend more time than you’d like telling your child, no, they can’t have those nice things either.
My parents gave me £1.60 for a portion of chips so often that the owner of the shop, an avuncular man who wore a white lab jacket, told me he’d be giving me extra chips, because I was a regular. They would have preferred to take me to Disneyland, or bought me toys to play with for an afternoon before they were replaced with more toys, but that wasn’t an option.
Instead they gave me food laced with sugar and ingredients that sound like they belong on the periodic table. They could have bought me a courgette, but they wanted to give me something that would make me feel like I was lucky, something that felt like a treat. 
But it’s not only poor children who are obese, the government report tells us. “Obesity prevalence is highest amongst the most deprived groups in society.” The government’s response, of banning adverts for junk food before 9pm and buy-one-get-one-free deals misses the point. It treats food as something only to keep you going, rather than something to be enjoyed. And if you’re near broke, why would you deprive yourself of one of the few treats you can afford, when for £1 you can enjoy the luxury of a pack of Fox’s Chocolatey Ring Biscuits, just like everyone else. The response to the report was predictable. Annunziata Rees-Mogg, of the multi-millionaire Rees-Mogg family, tweeted that a bag of Tesco 1kg potatoes is 83p, while 950g of crisps were £1.35, this was in response to another tweet suggesting vegetables are too expensive for low income households. The suggestion is unclear – make your own crisps, invest the 52p you’ve saved (presuming there are no other costs) and become rich like her? 
What Annunziata’s tweet and others like it show is that if you’ve got no money you’ve got to defend wanting anything other than basic sustenance. Why eat crisps, when you could eat a sack of boiled potatoes? Eat up son, if you don’t finish your spuds, they’ll be no turnip for dessert. 
When my dad finishes a 12-hour shift, tired and underpaid, he doesn’t want a salad. He can’t afford a holiday to watch his weight for, and he wants something tasty – a treat – so he orders a combo meal from the chicken shop. 
He’s just not going to be convinced to switch to a healthy alternative through government messaging. My dad isn’t obese, however, living in a low-income area his neighbours likely are. If poverty and obesity are going to be untangled it won’t be with the window dressing that has been proposed. There are bigger, structural issues, that have gone unaddressed. 
Having the time and resources to think about living a healthier lifestyle is a privilege. If you’re poor you’ve got stuff on your mind: you’re more likely to likely to live in insecure housing, be in insecure employment and more likely to die from Covid-19. 
When someone is struggling to put food on the table is it any wonder, they’re unconcerned with what’s on the plate?
Josh Schot is a freelance writer. Related... Opinion: Blaming Obesity Is Not The Solution To Coronavirus I've Been On A Weight Management Programme. Here's Why It Didn't Work. No.10 Slammed For 'Obesity Crackdown' That Ignores Poverty
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