New data: Government-recommended diet costs poorest 5th of UK half their disposable income

Broken Plate 2023

The Broken Plate 2023 report 

The most deprived fifth of the population would need to spend 50% of their disposable income on food to meet the cost of the Government’s recommended healthy diet, and healthier foods are over twice as expensive per calorie as less healthy foods, shows new data from the 2023’s edition of The Food Foundation’s annual Broken Plate report

With diets now the biggest risk factor for preventable diseases, The Broken Plate continues (having started in 2019) to track vital metrics which reveal the health of our food system and its impact on our lives. This year’s report features a number of new metrics, including that 56% of calories consumed by older children and adults are from ultra-processed foods.  

The report shows that the most deprived fifth of the population would need to spend 50% of their disposable income on food to meet the cost of the Government’s Eatwell Guide, compared with just 11% for the least deprived fifth. The situation has deteriorated from the previous year, when the poorest fifth would have needed to spend 43% of their disposable income.  

More healthy foods are over twice as expensive per calorie as less healthy foods, with more healthy foods increasing in price over the past two years by £1.76 per 1,000kcal compared with £0.76 for less healthy foods. When broken down by Eatwell Guide category, fruit and vegetables remain the most expensive category by a significant margin, costing on average £11.79 per 1,000kcal compared with food and drink high in fat and/or sugar costing just £5.82 per 1,000kcal.  

"We cannot hold people personally responsible for their diet if we do not create realistic choices, a healthy environment, a positive culture and a supply chain to match" - Lord James Bethell, Conservative Peer 

The health consequences of our diets (and resultant strain on the NHS) are striking, with nearly 9,600 diabetes-related amputations carried out on average per year (an increase of 19% in six years) and children in the most deprived fifth of the population over twice as likely to be living with obesity as those in the least deprived fifth by their first year of school. Healthy life expectancy in the most deprived tenth of the population is 19 years lower for women and 18 years lower for men than in the least deprived tenth.  

This data comes following weeks of food policy headlines, all of which point to long-standing problems with the food system. Shortly following Government delays to restrictions on HFSS multi-buy offers, which are a form of junk food marketing, Broken Plate reveals that a third (33%) of food and soft drink advertising spend goes towards confectionery, snacks, desserts and soft drinks compared to just 1% for fruit and vegetables.  

"It is a complete fantasy to suppose that the huge problems of diet-related disease are going to be solved by voluntary measures. The commercial incentives for companies to produce food that makes us sick are overwhelming. Just look at the results of the voluntary sugar reformulation programme. Cereals and yogurts are a staple of many families’ diets, and the huge levels of sugar still in so many products is shocking. We need to do better" - Henry Dimbleby, author of the National Food Strategy Independent Review

The HFSS ‘buy one get one free’ regulation delay was preceded by intensifying scrutiny around the UK’s soaring food price inflation, unprecedented demand for food banks, talk of price caps, growing concern around ultra-processed foods (UPF), the roll out of appetite-suppressing drugs, economic inactivity driven by poor health and, on a global scale, flooding in Ukraine, the world’s bread basket.    

Ahead of the next general election, The Food Foundation is calling on policymakers to recognise the importance of the food system in shaping the nation’s health and wealth, with recommendations (detailed below) for ensuring food is a source of prosperity for all.

“The cost of a healthy diet is not just borne by the individual. The Government’s own food strategy found that poorly nourished children struggle to concentrate at school and are more likely to suffer long-term health problems. To enable every child to fulfil their potential, we need to make a healthy diet affordable. The benefits system is the place to start. Benefit levels don’t seem at present to be benchmarked to essentials, like the cost of a healthy diet, but instead result from a series of arbitrary changes. The Work and Pensions Select Committee is currently running an inquiry on the level of benefits, to consider how the levels should be set. One of our ambitions should surely be to ensure that everyone can afford a healthy diet!" - Rt Hon Sir Stephen Timms MP – Chair, Work and Pensions Select Committee

Anna Taylor, Executive Director of The Food Foundation, said: “It is perfectly possible for us to increase the flow of affordable, nutritious food through our food system and into our shops and takeaways, we just need to get the incentives right within the system. The figures in this report tell us just how badly this action is needed. Too many of us know family and friends that are struggling with health problems resulting from a system that directs us to foods that damage our wellbeing. Politicians need to look carefully at what the data is telling us about the state of Britain. Serious leadership in tackling this is long overdue."

Kathleen Kerridge, food poverty campaigner and Food Foundation Ambassador, said: “The affordability of nutritious, healthy diets is more important now than ever before. With millions of families struggling to get by, we need to ensure everyone has access to good food at realistic prices. It's unacceptable to have so many going hungry, or being pushed to use food banks due to continuous slashing of benefits and services. Having struggled repeatedly over the years with severe food insecurity myself; experiencing, still, the barriers surrounding access to good food and sometimes being unable to afford to eat a nutritious and varied diet, I am so pleased to see the work The Food Foundation has been doing over the years, and am proud to be one of their Food Ambassadors. With numbers of those facing food insecurity growing, and vegetables becoming fast inaccessible due to inflation and rising prices, it's imperative we act together to ensure the health and wellbeing of everyone living in the UK, regardless of their economic position, advocating for those who never seem to have their voices heard."

Dominic Watters, single father, food insecurity expert-by-experience and Food Foundation Ambassador, Kent (@SingleDadSW), said: "This year’s Broken Plate data confirms that rising costs, not reflected in benefits, are making the barest essentials unmanageable for the poorest in society. But food insecurity isn’t experienced in isolation: my council estate is a food desert where access to nutrition is limited and access to gas and electric is compromised by a broken top-up system. Raw ingredients are often a luxury now for the poorest in the population as the price of cooking rules them out. Together, these factors have a huge impact on a person’s health and wellbeing. I hear my neighbours discussing the all-consuming challenge of making ends meet. They spend all day on the bus traveling from supermarket to supermarket in search of bargain deals on microwave meals, they wash their clothes less to save £3 a month on electricity, and they can’t afford to send their children to the clubs they love."

Keira, 14, Food Foundation Young Food Ambassador, said: “In my area, it’s mostly fast food outlets. There’s cafés and a chippy, and a Sainsbury’s local where you can get a salad at least. But on the street you see a lot more fast food advertised, like KFC. Healthy food needs to be promoted a lot more, and healthy food should be made to seem fun and exciting for young people."




“Social media is a huge part of young people’s lives now. I get a lot of fast food adverts on my phone, like on TikTok there is loads of promotion for McDonalds and KFC. It’s not just what young people see on the street, it’s what they listen to as well, it’s everywhere now.” 


Aliza, 14, Food Foundation Young Food Ambassador, said: “The fact that healthy food is so much more expensive compared with unhealthy food is a major problem which needs to be tackled immediately. The amount of advertisements suggesting children, teenagers and adults go for the unhealthy, cheap options makes it hard to buy ingredients and create a healthy option, cooking with your love and time. The latter option is also expensive and many will go for the ready meals for less money, especially if there are coupons and discounts for the unhealthy foods. Everyone needs nutrients in their meals and this will not get resolved by advertising unhealthy options for a cheap price, but will get resolved by bringing the prices down on healthy food instead.” 


           1. National Food Strategy, 2021. The Plan.

Please contact Pandora Haydon on 07789 712608 or email

Full report available here. More information about The Broken Plate, including previous years’ reports, here


Anna Taylor – Executive Director, Food Foundation  

Shona Goudie, Broken Plate Lead Author, The Food Foundation 

Kathleen Kerridge; food poverty campaigner and Food Foundation Ambassador, Portsmouth  

Dominic Watters, council estate single father and Food Foundation Ambassador, Kent (@SingleDadSW) 

Hasan, 14, Food Foundation Young Food Ambassador  

Dev, 18, Food Foundation Young Food Ambassador

Twitter: @Food_Foundation

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About the Food Foundation
The Food Foundation is a charity working to influence food policy and business practice, shaping a sustainable food system which makes healthy diets affordable and accessible for all. We work in partnership with researchers, campaigners, community bodies, industry, investors, government and citizens to galvanise the UK’s diverse agents of change, using surprising and inventive ideas to drive fundamental shifts in our food system. These efforts are based on the continual re-evaluation of opportunities for action, building and synthesising strong evidence, convening powerful coalitions, harnessing citizens’ voices and delivering impactful communications.        
Registered Charity Number 1187611. 

About Broken Plate 
In February 2019, The Food Foundation published its first annual flagship report. The Broken Plate presented 10 vital signs revealing the health of our food system, its impact on our lives, and the remedies we must pursue. The first report showed that the UK’s food system has led the country into a national health crisis, with children and households on low incomes suffering the severest health consequences. Each year The Food Foundation publishes a new edition of The Broken Plate, providing updated statistics for ten key metrics, new commentary on the direction of travel and proposals for change inspired by emerging evidence.

With thanks to our funders including The Nuffield Foundation.  

About The Nuffield Foundation 
The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice. It also funds student programmes that provide opportunities for young people to develop skills in quantitative and scientific methods. The Nuffield Foundation is the founder and co-funder of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the Ada Lovelace Institute and the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory. The Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation. Visit

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