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A tale of two localities: Healthy Eating on a restricted income

Lloyd, S., Lawton, J., Caraher, M. , Singh, G., Horsley, K. & Mussa, F. (2011). A tale of two localities: Healthy Eating on a restricted income. Health Education Journal, 70(1), pp. 48-56. doi: 10.1177/0017896910364837


Objective: To determine the availability and affordability of a healthy food basket and to model how those on low-incomes might manage.

Design and methodology: After determining access and availability of key items from shops in two localities, called Deepdale and Ingol, a healthy food basket was developed. From this a week’s healthy menu was devised for a mother and two children, then availability of the ingredients was checked using data collected from the shops and costed. The baskets represented the cultural preferences of White British and South Asian families informed by participatory work with both these groups. We chose the income level for a family entitled to income support and child allowance.

Results: Analysis of the availability of some healthy options such as brown bread, wholemeal pasta, and brown rice showed they were not widely available within shops in the two areas. The price of the ‘White British’ basket in the area of Ingol was £70.61 (lowest price). For comparable goods in the area of Deepdale, using the most expensive shopping basket, the price for the same basket was £42.47. A South Asian family shopping at a major supermarket outlet in Deepdale would pay £47.05. Using local shops they could pay between £38.59 and £44.28 by seeking out the best bargains in five shops (including some top-up items from a national supermarket). At the time of the research a mother with two children entitled to income support and child allowance would have to spend 28–32 per cent of her income in local shops and 34 per cent in a supermarket to buy a basket of healthy goods. This compared to the national average of 10–12 per cent of income being spent on food purchases.

Conclusions: Prices varied enormously between the two areas. Local shops in one area offered a comparable price to shopping in the supermarkets. The Ingol area, with a large white working class population, was particularly poorly served for those on low incomes and the range of choices restricted. The percentages spent on food to meet the requirements of our healthy baskets and menus show that more than the national average – in both absolute and relative terms – would have to be spent to eat healthily. For the vulnerable and price dependent poor in Preston this will mean having to spend more on food and possibly more on travel to access basics, a healthy diet will cost more, while proportionally an unhealthy diet, as can be found in fast food outlets, may not be as expensive when other costs such as cooking are taken into account. An overall rise in food prices of 5 per cent will reduce living standards among high-income consumers by approximately 3 per cent; for low-income consumers this reduction in an already poor diet could be as high as 20 per cent. What we have demonstrated is the usefulness of local studies to highlight micro-differences in relatively small areas (Preston city) and the different experiences of groups in accessing healthy foods, and thus the need to refine interventions at a local level.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright Sage 2011
Publisher Keywords: Food access, income inequality, ethnicity, shops, food poverty
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management > Food Policy
SWORD Depositor:
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