By Hannah Newberry
British society has its fair share of pressing social issues, many of which drag us down in the competitive world of international standards of wellbeing. So, when we’re looking at obesity rates and the amount of families living below the poverty line, it’s a staggering concern to learn that the UK is among the worst for both, and there is a relationship between the two – why? Obviously, it’s because poor people have no self-control and spend their money on other things instead of feasting on organic asparagus and vine tomatoes. Low-income families are stuck in a cycle where they ‘think in a different gear’, as explained by Britain’s glorious Jamie Oliver.
Or maybe this isn’t the case. Perhaps poor people aren’t too deprived of logic to understand that cheap, processed meals aren’t the best option. Whether it’s years of austerity, rising living costs or inflation, education is seldom to blame when the extortionate prices of fresh produce are literally repelling low-income households from purchasing. It’s impossible for an already debt-laden budget to be stretched even further to buy six items for double the price that won’t last more than a few days. I grew up in a household like this, and it taught me that it’s incredibly difficult for a three person family to eat frozen processed food. So, how could Jamie Oliver still tell bigger families to skip the cheaper, less healthy options and worry about going bust over the fundamental human right of eating?
Earlier this week, Oliver slammed his TV networks for essentially being too money-driven to spare a thought for children watching TV and ban junk food adverts from being shown before the watershed. This is an interesting criticism, when in the next breath Oliver states that much of what he does in his campaigns is to show that ‘doing good is good business’. So, does he really care about the diet of socioeconomically deprived families after all? Is this #AdEnough campaign, and his other campaigns, concerned with making examples out of people with bad diets or are they really aimed at helping them?
Oliver, one of the richest chefs in the world, fundamentally fails to help low-income households eat better. We cannot tax unhealthy but affordable foods and let poor people starve whilst we do nothing to decrease the cost of healthy foods – this is being looked at the wrong way. How would taxing decrease obesity rates among middle-class people with ‘middle-class logic’? His backing and pursuing of campaigns like these could go as far as virtually humiliating poorer customers, who so far don’t think like the ‘rest’ of us. An ‘us vs them’ scenario incites blame rather than acknowledges solutions.
The campaign’s plan to remove two for one takeaway deals (a true British staple which makes this a cultural atrocity), forgets about other token unhealthy foods like frozen pizzas, so how is the removal of selective offers going to benefit anyone? Jamie Oliver is not actually waging a war against rising obesity, diabetes, heart disease, strokes and certain types of cancer – there is a target on the backs of deals, discounts and multipacks, where affordability makes the decisions for British families every single day – and this is evident in every corner of his campaigns.
I’m not for a second arguing that sugary drinks, processed foods and cheap takeaway deals should be encouraged, and on the surface, Oliver’s campaign messages appear to aim themselves at increased wellbeing of the country. It’s when you dig deeper that it has to be pondered why Jamie Oliver couldn’t use his reputation as the ‘healthy meals chef’ to raise awareness about fresh-frozen produce or wonky veg boxes. What’s worrying is that he has support on an institutional level, and we’re already seeing those classist policies being rolled out, like the sugar tax. So, it’s a worrying thought as to what low-income staple he’s going to target next, and how detrimental it will be to those already struggling to put food on the table.