Price of healthy ingredients for children rose in 4 out of 5 supermarkets
Data published today by The Food Foundation shows that the price of a healthy packed lunch has increased in four out of five major retailers since August, with costs increasing by up to five per cent in just two months. As children return to school after half term, the Foundation is calling for supermarkets to do more to support families struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
The report, part of The Food Foundation’s Kid’s Food Guarantee found that the cost of a reasonably healthy packed lunch increased at Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Aldi and ASDA, with Tesco the only retailer where the cost decreased.
A packed lunch from Morrisons came in as the most expensive, while Tesco offered the best value for money. The research compared prices from August and October this year and focused on a range of products including wholemeal bread, spread, cheese, cucumber, carrot sticks, hummus, popcorn, plain yoghurt, apples and bananas. These food items have been taken as indicative items that can form part of a healthy packed lunch.
Ideally, all school children should have access to a hot, nutritious meal at school. This would help them to focus in class, learn better and reach their full potential. However, in England there are currently 900,000 children living in poverty who do not qualify for the Government’s Free School Meals scheme due to stringent criteria. These students often have to rely on packed lunches.
In England, school meals are required to meet the School Food Standards laid out by Government, meaning children should be getting the nutrients needed to keep them healthy. Research shows that less than two per cent of packed lunches meet the School Food Standards and so offer a far less nutritious option than school meals.
Retailers can play a crucial part in helping customers struggling through the cost of living crisis by making healthy food affordable for these low income families. Many parents want to send their children off to school with a healthy, tasty packed lunch but often this is not the cheapest or most convenient option.
Polling conducted by The Food Foundation found that nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of low income families (C2DE) would find it helpful for them in feeding their children well if retailers offered a lunchbox meal deal so that they can easily buy items to make up a week of healthy lunchboxes for their children.
The increase in price from August to October is in large part due to the small number of products on offer this time – in August, 7 out of 50 products were on offer compared to just one product in October.
Interestingly, two products in Asda that were on offer last time research was conducted (in August), were no longer on offer in October, but the price of these products remained unchanged. This price was also equivalent to other retailers’ prices for the same products without offers, suggesting these offers may have been misleading rather than representing actual savings.
Overall, seven products have increased and three products have decreased in price. The biggest increases were driven by popcorn no longer being on offer in two of the retailers, with smaller increases due to cucumber, apples and bananas becoming more expensive. The Foundation said that it was particularly concerning to see fruit and vegetables becoming more expensive.
Shona Goudie, Policy and Advocacy Manager at The Food Foundation said, “We are calling on Government to extend Free School Meals so that the most deprived children are not priced out of a hot, nutritious lunch with their peers. In the meantime, supermarkets need to ensure they are selling a healthy, convenient packed lunch at an affordable price.
“As part of our Kid’s Food Guarantee we are asking retailers to offer lunchbox items that are compliant with School Food standards and make up five lunches that can be bought at an affordable price point, for example through a multibuy deal. No retailer currently has such a meal deal but this would go a long way to helping time-poor families on tight budgets to provide their children with a healthy packed lunch.”