A veg( or five) too far: why 10 portions a day is way too much to ask | Kathleen Kerridge

In an ideal world, doubling our fruit and vegetable uptake is a good idea. But in austerity Britain, it would be impossible to afford all that, let alone cook it

Government guidelines have, for some years, held that eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is what we should all be aiming for. Thats an achievable target for many, if not most, of us. Some days it might be felt in the handbag, to make sure theres broccoli on a plate, but generally its possible to feed five different fruits and vegetables a day even on a strict budget.

Ten, though? When I first read that the guidelines could change, and we should be aiming for 10 portions of fruit and veg a day, I nodded and thought: Huh, attains sense. But as I thought about it, while raiding my freezer for a suitcase of frozen carrots, I realised it was going to be another thing like buying free scope organic, or only buying ethically sound attire that will only serve to make the poor feel guilty, again less than good enough.

Most days their own families consumes five a day with ease. The veg is in my budget, and theres always a bag of bananas or satsumas around. I buy frozen veggies and fresh fruit, and they get vacuumed up by the family as fast as I can serve them. To serve and supply doubled this, though? When vegetables are sold in 900 g pouches for the most proportion, and each member of the family should be having 10 sections a day at 80 g a portion they cant be the same fruit or vegetable then for families already struggling, this extra recommendation seems impossible.

Already millions are feeling the pinch of extended austerity. Receiving a fiver for the electric meter, or attaining sure theres food on the table at all, is a common battle across the country. Its not unusual for thousands of children to go to school hungry, having not eaten breakfast because the cupboards were bare at home.

Food banks are having a hard time keeping up with the families who, after paying their rent, have no money left for groceries. People who have no real cook facilities, often relying on a worktop oven or a microwave to find them through, will have good reason to roll their eyes and dismis this advice. For some, its not even worth aiming for. Its impossible to afford it, let alone cook it.

Frozen
Just adding half a frozen suitcase of greens to a meal for four people will cost an extra 50 p. And thats simply one portion of veg at dinner. Photograph: Garry Weaser for the Guardian

When there is so much inequality in income in this country, and when so many are opposing to live from payday to payday, as Sure Start centres fade into memory , taking food education and their healthy eating plans with them, and school dinners rise in expense, it seems shortsighted to interfere more in what people are putting on their plates. Maybe a little bit cruel. Just adding half a frozen bag of greens to a meal for four people will cost an extra 50 p. And thats just one portion of veg at dinner.

To eat 10 sections a day, there needs to be three or four on a dinner plate if the target is going to be achievable an extra 2 for one snack, or 14 a week for an evening meal with four portions of cheap frozen veggies each night. Add in a banana during the day, some fruit for breakfast, a snack of beans on toast, an apple before dinner, and then something else for supper? The food bill has get out of control, and the guilt defines in, much as it does when Im left with no alternative but to buy cheap clothes I know have been stimulated in a sweatshop overseas.

In an ideal world I would be dressing in Fairtrade cottons and feeing render from my local farmers marketplace. In reality, a handful of buds and some green beans from the freezer accompanies a meal, and my clothes are from the cheapest stores on the high street. In an ideal world, I would induce my children smoothies every day for breakfast. I would source merely the finest ingredients. I would only buy free scope organic produce. I would feed 10 portions of fruit and veg a day.

This, though, isnt an ideal world. This is Britain, hit by the effects of rising rents and an austerity budget. Many councils are set to raise taxes by 5% this year, adding another 100 at least to my bill for 2017. Tax credits, running benefits, housing benefits and every other benefit that isnt an old age pension have been frozen for three years. Wages arent increasing to match the cost of living. Energy expenses are going through the roof. In Britain today, an iceberg lettuce costs 75 p, and I can promise you that a portion of lettuce wont fill a stomach for long.

Ten a day? Maybe not.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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