Food banks
Food banks have become widespread in the UKIBTimes UK

The poorest Britons may risk suffering from malnutrition against a backdrop of rising food prices, according to new government statistics. The figures indicate that significant numbers of the poor could be consuming fewer calories than they need to maintain full body

The figures indicate that significant numbers of the poor could be consuming fewer calories than they need to maintain full body weight. Last year the poorest tenth of the population spent over 20% more on nutrition than in 2007, but received 7% less in return.

Last year the poorest 10th of the British population spent over 20% more on food than in 2007, but received 7% less in return.

The government's Family Food report is based on an annual survey of 6,000 households. It also indicated the possibility of a widening gap in consumption between the rich and poor. Last year the richest 10th of the population consumed 2,294 calories, according to the report, approximately 15% more than the poorest.

It also indicated the possibility of a widening gap in consumption between the rich and poor. Last year the richest 10th of the population consumed 2,294 calories, according to the report, approximately 15% more than the poorest.

But questions remain whether there is a cause for concern. Current NHS guidelines for adult nutrition state men should eat at least 2,500 calories a day, while women should eat 2,000. Children's requirements vary according to age, but are below both figures. The report's findings do not necessarily show significant shortfalls against these requirements for the poorest social groups.

In an interview with the Independent on Sunday, Liz Dowler, a professor of food and social policy at Warwick University acknowledged that there were problems with the way the Family Food data was collected. Nevertheless, she asserted that, "there are substantial numbers of people who are going hungry and eating a pretty miserable diet".

Similarly, Susan Jebb, a professor of diet and population health at Oxford University pointed out that people tend to underreport their calorie intake. She said that it did not appear that people were "significantly losing weight". However, she added that: "There are sub-groups of the population who are in food poverty and who are struggling to have enough to eat."

Earlier in December Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, a Conservative peer, asserted that poor people are going hungry because they "do not know how cook".

At a launch of a report into food poverty Baroness Jenkin said: "We have lost a lot of our cooking skills. I had a large bowl of porridge today. It cost 4p. A large bowl of sugary cereal will cost 25p."

She stated she was "not all blaming" the poor, but that the evidence collected by the All Party Group on Hunger and Food Poverty indicated that that people are often unable to produce nutritious meals from scratch, because of a lack of basic cooking skills.