Poverty ‘closely connected’ to obesity rise, charity warns


POVERTY and food insecurity could be pushing up obesity levels, a charity has said, after a new report revealed that more than half of adults in ɫ˸ were overweight or obese.

According to a Health report published last week, 54% of adults are overweight or obese – a 4% rise from 2022. But rather than pointing the finger of blame at individuals, Yvonne Corbin, chief executive of Caring Cooks, emphasised the impact of economic hardship on food choices and instead called for nutritional education and accessible healthy meals for families.

She explained that those struggling financially were more likely to turn to cheaper, processed foods, which can cause weight gain, describing poverty, food insecurity, and obesity as being “closely interconnected in a troubling cycle”.

She said the charity wanted to push on with plans to extend the primary-school meals scheme and also set up a “centralised hub” to teach cooking skills and educate Islanders about healthy eating.

“The interplay of limited financial resources, expensive food options, and time constraints from multiple job commitments means that low-income families may often depend on low-cost, energy-dense, processed foods,” she said.

“These foods are usually readily available, have a longer shelf life and require less time and effort to prepare, which is a crucial consideration for busy families.

“However, these foods also contribute to an increased risk of obesity due to their high calorific content and low nutritional value.

“As food costs climb, healthier options such as fresh fruits and vegetables become more of a luxury.

“For children, this means that diets are increasingly composed of foods that can lead to excessive calorie intake without providing essential nutrients, setting the stage for weight gain and associated health issues.”

Caring Cooks is trying to address the problem by “levelling the nutritional playing field” – encouraging Islanders to eat healthily while tackling food poverty and supporting vulnerable families.

The charity has pushed forward a scheme over the past four years that provides affordable meals for all students and free food to pupils from households receiving income support in ten of the Island’s primary schools.

This service is provided by Flourish – a social enterprise that manages government contracts for hot-meal catering in schools – which is overseen by Caring Cooks.

The government is seeking to expand the programme this year and provide nutritious school meals for all primary-school children, aiming to reduce inequalities, improve healthy eating and reduce cost-of-living pressures.

These plans were set out in the government’s Common Strategic Policy document earlier this month, which identified the areas in which ministers want to make progress ahead of the next general election.

But, for Caring Cooks, directly providing nutritious meals is only part of the solution – the other is empowering Islanders to eat healthily by equipping children and their families with knowledge about nutrition as well as practical cooking skills.

“This early education is crucial, as it lays the foundation for lifelong healthy habits,” Ms Corbin said.

“Moreover, we actively encourage children to take these skills home, involving their parents in the learning process.

“Through this approach, we aim to create a ripple effect of health awareness that extends from the classroom to the home, contributing to the fight against obesity in our community.

“Proper nutrition and food knowledge should be a right, not a privilege, for every child.”

Ms Corbin explained that her dream was for the charity to set up a centralised “educational hub” to allow Caring Cooks to expand their programmes and support various community groups by offering kitchen facilities.

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