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Jamie Oliver: Many Poor Families Choose The Most Expensive Food

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Jamie Oliver has said he finds it hard to talk about "modern-day poverty", saying many poor families in Britain do not know how to feed themselves and choose expensive options.

The TV chef, who has an estimated fortune worth £130m, said poor communities in other countries have a better grasp of food, and often produce some of the most inspirational food.

The 38-year-old star cited a family he met while making one of his previous TV shows who ate unhealthy, fast food but had splashed out on a huge TV.

jamie oliver

Jamie Oliver: In Italy and Spain they eat well on not much money

He told the Radio Times: "Some of the most inspirational food in the world comes from areas where people are financially challenged.

"The flavour comes from a cheap cut of meat, or something that's slow-cooked, or an amazing texture's been made out of leftover stale bread."

The campaigning chef added: "I'm not judgmental, but I've spent a lot of time in poor communities, and I find it quite hard to talk about modern-day poverty.

"You might remember that scene in Ministry Of Food, with the mum and the kid eating chips and cheese out of Styrofoam containers, and behind them is a massive f***ing TV. It just didn't weigh up."

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But campaigners say low incomes are a barrier to healthy eating for many families, and that the government needs to address its child poverty strategy.

Oliver, whose new Channel 4 show, Jamie's Money Saving Meals, is designed to help people save on their food bill, added: "The fascinating thing for me is that seven times out of 10, the poorest families in this country choose the most expensive way to hydrate and feed their families. The ready meals, the convenience foods."

The Naked Chef said: "I meet people who say, 'You don't understand what it's like.' I just want to hug them and teleport them to the Sicilian street cleaner who has 25 mussels, 10 cherry tomatoes, and a packet of spaghetti for 60 pence, and knocks out the most amazing pasta. You go to Italy or Spain and they eat well on not much money. We've missed out on that in Britain, somehow."

Oliver, who had a partnership with Sainsbury's for 11 years and campaigned to improve school dinners, said: "One of the other things we look at in the (TV) series is going to your local market, which is cheaper, anyway, but also they don't dictate size. From a supermarket you're going to buy a 200g bag of this or a 400g pack of that. If you're going past a market, you can just grab 10 mangetout for dinner that night, and you don't waste anything."

However the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) insisted that low income can be a barrier to healthy eating.

Imran Hussain, the group's head of policy, said: "Jamie Oliver has made a huge contribution to improving school meals and we're grateful for the support his foundation has given us in our work on free school meals.

"He is right to say that healthy food doesn't always have to be expensive - one of CPAG's ambassadors, the food blogger Jack Monroe, is an excellent example of this - but for many families it's low income which gets in the way of healthy eating.

"As official statistics show, parents of poor children are much less likely to be able to afford fresh fruit for their children. We also know from the evidence that as the incomes of poor families rise, they spend more on things like healthy food and children's clothes.

"The huge hits many working and non-working families are taking in their incomes as a result of cuts in tax credits and benefits are very real, as is the resulting huge growth in demand for food banks. The Government's child poverty strategy is seriously adrift and urgently needs rethinking."