Rice with fresh vegetables versus a frozen pizza: many Dutch people say they want to choose the first, healthy option, but do not do so because of the costs. This is evident from figures from Statistics Netherlands today. Healthy and affordable food is a challenge for many, the Nutrition Center also says, but the responsibility for this should not lie solely with the consumer.
Price is a determining factor when people buy food, says Liesbeth Velema, nutrition and behavior expert at the Nutrition Center. “And we have seen in recent years that healthy food has risen faster in price than unhealthy food.”
In addition to price, convenience and taste also play a major role, says Velema, and these factors also do not contribute to making healthy choices. “We naturally have a preference for salty, sweet and fatty food. And if you look at the food environment around us, it is not easy for us to say no to that.”
Velema refers to the many unhealthy temptations that people are exposed to every day. “80 percent of the supermarket offering is not in the Wheel of Five. This also applies to the offers. We also see that people in neighborhoods with many fast-food restaurants find it more normal to eat unhealthy food.”
Fish fingers or peppers
Due to these factors, picking up a hamburger from the snack bar around the corner is often a more attractive option than thinking about what you want to cook, going shopping and preparing it. And when you do go to the supermarket after a long day at work, it can be tempting to buy a pack of fifteen fish fingers instead of two organic peppers of the same price.
“You can eat healthy with less money, but you have to put more effort into it,” says Velema. “You can keep an eye on offers at different supermarkets, go to the market in the late afternoon and buy seasonal vegetables, but that takes time. And you also have to know how to prepare it.”
The Nutrition Center website contains budget tips and healthy and affordable recipes. Velema says that the government could also make it easier for consumers to choose healthy in the supermarket. “We are in favor of a lower VAT rate for healthy food, and in our opinion unhealthy food should become more expensive. Especially for people with a small budget, who may have a lot on their minds, it can be difficult to put healthy food above on the priority list.”
Healthy eating as a basic provision
Floris Visser, founder of the Volkskantine in Rotterdam South, also saw this. With this recently opened neighborhood restaurant, he wants to make healthy eating a basic provision. “It’s strange that we do have public facilities such as libraries and public transport, but there are no basic necessities such as healthy eating.”
From January 2024, the Volkskantine must be a central place in the neighborhood where everyone can eat a nutritious meal for the price of a snack bar meal. The public kitchen where residents can cook together is already open. Every Monday morning, a group of residents meet in the Mealprep Café to cook a complete weekly menu for 15 euros: five evening meals for a family of five. 25 portions in total, so 60 cents per portion.
Milaisa cooks on Monday for the rest of the week:
More than just passing on knowledge about healthy eating, the Volkskantine tries to encourage residents to do something with that knowledge. “Most people know what is healthy and what is unhealthy,” says Visser. “But if you only see fast, unhealthy options in your environment, it is difficult to make the healthy choice, whether you earn a lot or a little.”
Visser calls his mission ‘fighting against the odds’, but with the Mealprep Café he tries to encourage people to opt for cheap and healthy instead of cheap and unhealthy. “We are not pedantic about: this is allowed and this is not allowed. Everyone can cook, but sometimes people need tools and a little confidence.”
- One in six people who want to eat healthier cannot afford it
- Experts critical of report: VAT on fruit and vegetables can be reduced
- The price of healthy food has risen faster than that of snacks and sweets