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Social Justice

A food charity has shut down claims from a Tory MP that people in poverty can’t cook

MP Lee Anderson said rising hunger is because people can’t cook – but The Food Foundation has shown lower income groups cook more than those on a higher income.

Tory MP Lee Anderson sparked a fierce backlash with his comments about food bank users not being able to cook or budget properly. Now a charity has proved him wrong.

The Food Foundation has highlighted research showing people on low incomes are more likely to cook a meal at least once per day than higher earners.

The charity published a Twitter thread shutting down the comments made by the Nottinghamshire MP earlier this week.

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Speaking in the House of Commons, Anderson said rising hunger is not down to the cost of living crisis but is instead due to a lack of cooking skills.

He claimed there’s no use for food banks in the UK, and that people can afford to eat for 30p a day.

Speaking in a debate in parliament on Wednesday afternoon, he said: “You’ve got generation after generation who cannot cook properly. They can’t cook a meal from scratch. They cannot budget.”

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He also said there is a “brilliant scheme” at the foodbank in his constituency of Ashfield, adding: “When people come now for a food parcel, they’ve got to register for a budgeting course and a cooking course.

“And what we do at the food bank, we show them how to cook cheap and nutritious meals on a budget. We can make a meal for around 30p a day and this is cooking from scratch.”

The cost of living crisis means food banks are nearly at breaking point, and Britain’s poorest families are struggling to make ends meet.

In a Twitter thread, The Food Foundation said: “Rising food insecurity isn’t caused by people not knowing how to cook – families are facing skyrocketing food/fuel prices and incomes aren’t keeping up. Teaching people to cook is not on its own the answer, and cooking from scratch isn’t always cheap.

“In fact, cooking skills are not lower in low income groups: studies show people report high levels of confidence in cooking skills and this doesn’t substantially vary across socio-demographic groups.”

Additionally, the Food Foundation found research from Canada showing that adults in food insecure households do not have lower food preparation skills than those in food secure households.

Likewise, a study in the USA found that ‘use of a budget’ did not significantly differ between food-secure and food-insecure households.

The foundation’s analysis found that even before prices increased, a government advised healthy diet cost the poorest fifth of households forty per cent of their disposable income.

Anderson’s claims that a meal can be made from scratch for 30p a day are based off cooking in bulk for a family of five for a week – which not everyone has the facilities for, or can afford to do. The calculation also does not include rising energy costs.

Shop prices are increasing at the fastest rate in more than a decade, according to The British Retail Consortium, and previous analysis from The Food Foundation showed one in five households with children are struggling to put food on the table.

Low income families are also being forced to ditch fresh food due to the cost of cooking, with analysis showing the price of home cooked food has increased, relative to the price of processed food, making convenience foods a more appealing option.

A four-point plan by The Food Foundation aims to help everyone to eat well during the cost of living crisis.

It recommends increasing incomes and workplace benefits in line with inflation, and providing a safety net to protect children, through the expansion of free school meals, breakfast provision and the Healthy Start scheme for pregnant women and mothers.

The foundation also wants to see healthy foods made more affordable by exploring using taxes and subsidies to rebalance the prices of healthy and unhealthy products.

It also says committing to a new Good Food Bill would help with the next food emergency, by installing a long term plan to build the resilience of food systems and citizens.

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