I wrote an article in Conservative Woman suggesting that Britain is awash with food that has never been cheaper and yet we have a food crisis. I immediately received hate mail saying that I was a hard-hearted bitch and had no idea what it was like to be poor. The local rag ran a derogatory article headlined ‘Let them eat spuds!’ Ex-UKIP candidate says food banks are fuelling the obesity crisis.’
I was made fun of by the local radio station and received messages saying I should die or be raped for writing that people should learn to cook basic, inexpensive, simple food. Yet a food writer called Jack Monroe who is a darling of the left, has a website called ‘Cooking on a bootstrap’. She shows people how to cook simple, nutritious and cheap food. If you are from the left, it is good to suggest people learn to cook.
If you are from the right and suggest the same thing, you must eat your words and apologise as Lady Jenkins, a Tory peer found to her cost after claiming that poor people can’t cook. So where does this myth of Britain being in the middle of a new Ethiopian famine come from? The Guardian alleges that 700,000 children go to school hungry and that more than eight million people in Britain have difficulty putting food on the table. While fat has long been a class issue it is now a racial issue because of Covid.
According to GOV UK, ‘Black adults are the most likely out of all ethnic groups to be overweight or obese.’ Yet, according to The Health Survey 2017. 28.7 per cent of adults in England are obese and a further 35.6 per cent are overweight. Nearly 65 per cent of the population has too much blubber, at least in part from having too much food.
Nevertheless, Tesco, anxious for political karma points, now invests in advertising virtue rather than food. The company has, it tells us, donated millions of tonnes of food to ‘serve the community.’ We are treated to pictures on TV of warehouses with forklift trucks scurrying around pushing crates of tinned pineapple with added sugar to provide more calories for the millions in Britain who go to bed racked with the pains of starvation.
Such adverts could be scenes from a Stalin advert for collective farming: smiling, plump, big breasted peasants, bathed in sunshine, swing their scythes to bring an abundant harvest for the glorious socialist revolution. Meanwhile around the corner, Ukrainians were dying in their millions in the Holodomor.
At the same time, on the other side of London, civil servants are working out how to kibosh remaining independent pubs and small restaurants by forcing them, under threat of enormous fines, to display the calorie count of everything they sell. The equipment for this vain glorious exercise costs £30,000 to £50,000 and that is without the staff required to calculate how many calories would be added if obese kids were given ten chicken nuggets instead of nine.
Such calorie counting is a vital plank in Boris ‘war’ on obesity: ‘Buy one, get one free’ to be banned, sausage sizes to be regulated and it will be illegal to serve more than one fried egg for breakfast. Chocolate biscuit smuggling gangs are gearing up. The truth is that while everyone over the last thirty years has got a bit fatter, some people have got a lot fatter, especially the poor. Decaying Great Yarmouth, where you can buy a 30-room hotel for £250,000, is full of very fat people. Just up the coast middle-class Burnham Market, where a two-bedroom cottage costs £500,000, is full of elegant, slim people.
In the Conservative Woman’s article, I showed that British food is not only relatively cheaper but cheaper than in most poor countries in the world. I used the example of Nepal where I lived for many years. The average income in the UK, where a chicken costs £2 and an egg 10p, is £2,200 a month. Contrast this to Nepal where the average income is £70 a month and a chicken costs £5 and an egg 20p.
Yet food banks do not exist in Nepal. A glance at a comparison site shows you can buy a kilo of ‘value’ or ‘basics’ rice for about 45p at any supermarket in the Britain. That equates to 4,000 calories for 45p. It costs the same, around 45p a kilo, in the markets of Kathmandu or the aisles of Tesco.
Giving people toffee crisps, tinned pineapple and cheap pasta from food banks will not solve anything – neither will putting calorie counts on restaurant menus. Diabetes will still climb ever upwards, and our Covid wards will still be filled with fat hypertensives,something no-one dare mention for fear they lose their job. The Fat Lie, that the British poor are starving in the midst of plenty, is an imaginary stick with which the left likes to beat the right.
The price of this lie is a generation of children heading toward the lethal consequences of type 2 diabetes: blindness, hypertension, stroke, amputations and early death which doctors are already seeing on hospital wards. The British working-class diet has changed from nutritious meat and two veg to highly processed cheap convenience food of low nutritional value.
A great swathe of the population has become accustomed from childhood to eating sweetened cereal, pizza, chips and ketchup all washed down with sugary fizzy drinks.You will not change the habits of half a century by putting the number of calories on a Big Mac.
This article was first published in the Autumn edition of the Salisbury Review Magazine September 1st 2020. (always ahead of the game)