Rising cost of healthy eating

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FOR years the common chorus, whenever it was said that poverty was the reason for unhealthy diets, was that this was nonsense.

When healthy food costs so much less than unhealthy food, it was said, when it is far cheaper to buy fresh fruit and vegetables than to pick up something dripping in fat from the takeaway, the argument that bad diets are the inevitable result of poverty could not possibly hold water.

This riposte, however, is undermined by new research from Cambridge University which shows that healthy foods now cost three times more, on average, than their less healthy alternatives and this price difference may be a key factor in the deteriorating health of lower income groups.

It is therefore time, suggest the researchers, to look at possible solutions such as subsidising the cost of healthier foods and bringing down prices by reforming farming or food distribution policies.

The very complexity of such solutions, however, highlights the depth of the problem. Fresh produce may be expensive, but far too little of that cost goes to the farmers that actually produce it and the resistance of retailers to any change in pricing policy is well known.

Nor is it simply a matter of price. A processed ready meal may be cheaper than preparing the same dish from fresh ingredients, but it is also far simpler for a young working family short of time as well as money, particularly if the adults are lacking in knowledge of how to store, prepare and cook fresh food as a result of deficiencies in the education system.

In such cases, it is clear that fresh food has no advantages over its processed competitors except for the most important ones of all: it is far more enjoyable and far healthier. Which is why incentives must be found to entice more people into choosing it.

A plea for power

Clegg ready for new coalition

As the Liberal Democrats wend their way home from their Glasgow conference, many must be reflecting that a political party can rarely have found itself in such a position, facing two, equally plausible scenarios – electoral oblivion or a further five years in government.

Such is the case for Nick Clegg’s party, however, in spite of the leader’s valiant attempts yesterday to carve out a distinct identity for the Lib Dems.

Many observers, however, will be wondering whether there is any point to the Sheffield Hallam MP’s efforts. After all, if the Lib Dems fail to hold the balance of power, they won’t have any opportunity to put their policies into action. And if they do enter another coalition, given previous evidence, they will happily sell any of their policies down the river as the price of staying in government.

There is, however, more to the Lib Dems than this and Mr Clegg is astute enough to pick issues – such as the neglect of mental health – which highlight failures in the main parties’ health policies and which neither rival is likely to reject in any coalition negotiations.

For all his mistakes, Mr Clegg has seen the Lib Dems grow in coalition from a ramshackle vehicle for protest votes to a party prepared to make the hard choices necessary for government. He has played a key role in an economic policy that has set Britain on the road to recovery and ensured that a coalition which many predicted would fall within months has lasted the course of a parliament. The pity is that, come next May, he will receive precious little credit for any of this from the Lib Dems’ fairweather supporters.

Permission to film

Dad’s Army comes to Yorkshire

NEWS earlier this year of a big-screen return for Dad’s Army proved a cause for concern among the perennial TV favourite’s legion of fans. Yesterday’s announcement of its stellar cast, however, may reassure doubters that – while the original actors could never be replaced – the new version may be a success on its own terms.

But the best omen of all for the revamped Dad’s Army must surely be the news that it will be filmed entirely in Yorkshire.

Indeed, the region is becoming the venue of choice for the discerning film-maker. Only this week, Sigourney Weaver has been filming in Huddersfield and Drew Barrymore was spotted on Ilkley Moor. And now it seems that Catherine Zeta Jones will be treading the streets of Bridlington, or should that be Walmington-on-Sea?

The news is another tribute to the success of Screen Yorkshire and it offers hope that, following the success of the Grand Départ’s worldwide coverage, Yorkshire’s attractions will remain firmly in the picture.