Food Prices and Food Poverty
Opposition Day — [Un-allotted Day]
Fiona Bruce (Congleton, Conservative)
Thank you for this opportunity to speak on food poverty, Madam Deputy Speaker. Members have mentioned with concern a lack of knowledge among many people today about what constitutes a healthy diet, and a lack of the skills to create healthy meals. I share those concerns, but in the time that I have, I would like to concentrate on another skill that is less prevalent today than it was just one or two generations ago: the skill to grow and produce at least some of our own food. That is something that my grandparents did, and not just as a hobby; it gave them a vital supplement to their daily diet. I remember enjoying that whole-family activity on many summer evenings.
I want to concentrate on some of the excellent initiatives in my constituency devoted to sharing know-how in this sphere. Interestingly, while some groups are decades old, including the Middlewich and District Show Society, the Congleton and District Horticultural Society, and the Alsager Gardens Association, others have been set up in the past two to three years, with immense support. They include the Sandbach Allotment Society, Home Grown in Holmes Chapel, and the Congleton Sustainability Group.
People on low incomes have the lowest intakes of fruit and veg, and are therefore far more likely to suffer from diet-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and coronary heart disease, which is why the initiatives that I am talking about could be disproportionately valuable to them. The ability to develop and share skills, and more opportunities for people to grow their own—whether in their garden, a neighbour’s garden, or on community land—are greatly needed. That need will increase, given that, as the chief scientific adviser to the Government has said, by 2030 we will need to produce 50% more food, and given that the European Commission’s current proposals could mean taking 7% of land out of production, much to the consternation of farmers in my constituency.
Turning back to the local, let me describe some of the benefits that the Middlewich annual show promotes. There were 400 entries last year across the many categories, including cookery, flowers and vegetables. John Carver, the chairman, grows leeks, onions, carrots, potatoes, peas and broad beans in his garden. I can testify, having visited, that it is as attractive as any garden with flowers in it. He says he gardens as people did 30 years ago, and has to buy hardly any veg for his family. He has carrots in storage, and freezes beans and peas. He advises people to grow their own
“as they are far better since they have not lost any of their ‘goodness’”.
At the last Middlewich show, it was a real pleasure to see the civic hall crowded out. Some of the entrants were very young, and some of the veg were of phenomenal size; several leeks, when stood on end for a photograph with me, were bigger than me.