Healthy packed lunches cost 45% more than unhealthy options

New analysis from The Food Foundation as part of its Kid’s Food Guarantee has found that on average, it is 45 per cent more expensive for parents to feed their children a healthy packed lunch compared to providing less nutritious options.

It also found that prices of healthy options have risen by up to nine per cent over the last six months in four out of five major retailers, despite a slowing in food price inflation since last November.

The Food Foundation is calling on retailers to ensure that any falls in the price of food are swiftly passed onto consumers and that nutritious items that are staples for a child’s healthy diet are prioritised.  
Across all five retailers looked at (Morrisons, Sainsburys, ALDI, Asda and Tesco), the unhealthy packed lunch was substantially cheaper.

Tesco did, however, come out best when compared to others, with a healthy lunch being just 9 per cent more expensive than the unhealthy packed lunch. Aldi had the biggest discrepancy in price, with the healthy packed lunch being 77 per cent more expensive than the unhealthy packed lunch.

The Food Foundation warns that if parents feel they have no choice but to opt for the cheaper, unhealthy options this could start to impact on a child's health over time.  

Many parents who can't afford to pay for school lunches opt for packed lunches because they cost less. This research shows unhealthy packed lunches offer a considerable saving; healthy packed lunches do not.

The Food Foundation is calling for Government to extend Free School Meals so that the most deprived children are not priced out of a hot, nutritious lunch with their peers.

In the meantime, The Food Foundation is calling on retailers to offer a lunchbox meal deal on items that are compliant with School Food Standards so parents can easily buy items to make up a week of healthy lunch boxes.

Shona Goudie, policy and advocacy manager at The Food Foundation, said: “The government’s stringent eligibility criteria to qualify for free school meals is leaving hundreds of thousands of children who are living in poverty but missing out on them at risk of malnutrition.

"Children from families with incomes not low enough to qualify for a Free School Meal and yet unable to afford lunch from the school canteen are left reliant on unhealthy packed lunches. "

She added: "No one should be priced out of being able to provide healthy food for their children and retailers need to do more to support families to afford the food they need.” 

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