Jamie Oliver: Poor Have Big TVs But Eat Junk

Jamie Oliver has said he struggles to talk about modern poverty after seeing families living on junk food but spending money on enormous televisions.

The chef, who has previously worked with ministers to improve school food, said he was baffled by struggling Britons who relied on expensive ready meals.

Oliver, 38, who has an estimated fortune of £150m, recalled being appalled by one family when filming a campaigning programme.

He said: "I'm not judgmental (o rly?), 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 ******* TV. It just didn't weigh up."

Poor communities in other countries took a different approach and used cheap food products but still ate healthily, Oliver told the Radio Times.

"Some of the most inspirational food in the world comes from areas where people are financially challenged," he said.

"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."

He added: "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.

"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 is promoting a new Channel 4 show Jamie's Money Saving Meals, urged people to go to their local market instead of the supermarket.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) insisted low income could be a barrier to healthy eating and attacked the Government for a lack of support.

Head of policy Imran Hussain said evidence showed poorer parents were less likely to be able to afford fresh fruit for children, and that they spent more on healthy food if their incomes rose.

"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," he said.

Helen Berresford, Save The Children's head of campaigns, added: "In these hard economic times, many of us are looking for ways to save money and get more for less.

"It's important that we do not lose sight of the tough reality for so many low-income families who are doing the best they can while struggling with high food costs, rising energy bills and childcare costs."

The Department of Work and Pensions insisted it had taken steps to address the cost of living, such as increasing the income tax threshold and freezing council tax and fuel duty.

A spokesman added: "Our welfare reforms with the introduction of Universal Credit will make three million households better off - the majority of these from the bottom two-fifths of the income scale."