Children in low-income families are undernourished, Oxfam says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 October, 2011, 12:00am


Low-income families cannot afford nutritionally balanced meals owing to rising food prices, a study by Oxfam has found.

Local representatives of the international rights group visited 19 markets between August and September. They calculated the average prices of ingredients needed to cook nutritionally balanced menus for children and adults as promoted by the Department of Health.

To meet their nutrition needs, families have to spend HK$47.50 a day on children aged six to 12 and HK$66.60 on adults, Oxfam said.

Yet low-income families spend between HK$17.50 and HK$36.60 less than that. Each member of the family spends HK$30 on food per day, according to an earlier survey by the organisation.

Food prices are highest in Shek Tong Tsui Market and Chung Fu Market in Tin Shui Wai, it added.

'Tin Shui Wai is hit the hardest [with] the greatest number of low-income families,' said Oxfam programmer officer, Alfred Choy Man-kit. 'They are already spending 40 per cent of their salary on food. If the food prices continue to soar, they will have to buy less meat, milk and fruit - which are the most nutritious but most expensive.'

Nutritionist Wynnie Chan Yuen-yee said diet influences a child's growth from brain development to behaviour. 'For adults and children alike, poor nutrition weakens the body's ability to fight off common infections,' Chan added.

Oxfam urged the government to introduce a work-incentive meal subsidy scheme for low-income workers. For example, it can provide full-time workers HK$390 monthly.

The organisation also urged the Community Care Fund to extend the meal allowances to secondary school children. Oxfam also called on it to increase the amount from HK$225 to HK$384 per month.