A veg( or five) too far: why 10 sections 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 is not feasible to afford all that, let alone cook it

Government guidelines have, for some years, held that feeing five one section of fruit and veggies 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 purse, 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 are subject to change, and we should be aiming for 10 portions of fruit and veg a day, I nodded and supposed: Huh, constructs sense. But as I thought about it, while raiding my freezer for a bag of frozen carrots, I realised it was going to be another thing like buying free range organic, or only buying ethically sound attire that will only serve to attain the poor feel guilty, again less than good enough.

Most days my family 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 render doubled this, though? When vegetables are sold in 900 g containers for the most part, and each member of the family should be having 10 portions a day at 80 g a portion they cant be the same fruit or vegetable then for households already struggling, this extra recommendation seems impossible.

Already millions are feeling the pinch of extended austerity. Finding a fiver for the electric meter, or making sure theres food on the table at all, is a common battle in different regions of the country. Its not unusual for thousands of children to go to school hungry, having not feed 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 fund left for groceries. People who have no real cooking facilities, often relying on a worktop oven or a microwave to find them through, will have good reason to roll their eyes and ignore 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 snack for four people will cost an extra 50 p. And thats only one portion of veg at dinner. Photo: Garry Weaser for the Guardian

When there is so much gap 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 schemes with them, and school dinners rise in cost, it seems shortsighted to interfere more in what people are putting on their plates. Maybe a little bit cruel. Just adding half a frozen purse of greens to a meal for four people will cost an extra 50 p. And thats simply one section of veg at dinner.

To eat 10 portions 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 dinner, or 14 a week for an evening dinner with four one section of inexpensive 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 option but to buy cheap clothes I know have been built in a sweatshop overseas.

In an ideal world I would be garmenting in Fairtrade cottons and feeing make from my local farmers marketplace. In reality, a handful of buds and some green beans from the freezer accompanies a dinner, and my clothes are from the cheapest stores on the high street. In an ideal world, I would make their own children smoothies every day for breakfast. I would source only the finest ingredients. I was able to buy free range organic produce. I would feed 10 one section 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 the least to my bill for 2017. Tax credits, working benefits, housing their advantages and every other benefit that isnt an old age pension ought to have 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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