Not enough people know how to make home cooked meals according to health bosses after it was revealed adults in Hartlepool eat less fruit and vegetables than anywhere else in the country.
A report from Hartlepool Borough Council health bosses found that less than half of people are getting their recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables daily in Hartlepool.
The average number of portions of fruit consumed daily in Hartlepool is 2.26, the lowest in England, and for vegetables it is 2.43.
Calls have been made to encourage people to eat more fruit and vegetables after councillors claimed not enough people in Hartlepool cook with fresh ingredients.
Coun Jim Lindridge said: “In Hartlepool we give a lot back to the community that’s not fresh food through our food banks.
“But some people cannot cook a proper meal, they don’t have the equipment or skills.
“It makes me quite sad.”
Coun Brenda Loynes said: “Fresh fruit and veg is quite cheap and supermarkets always have some sort of offers on.
“It goes back to can these families cook?”
In Hartlepool just 49.6% of adults eat five portions of fruit or vegetables a day, according to statistics in the council audit and governance committee report.
This is a decline of 4.4% on the previous year, and compares to an England average that has increased from 56.8% to 57.4%.
Dr Peter Brambleby, interim director of public health, who conducted the report, said families need to break the mould and get eating more fruit and vegetables.
He said: “We have the resources in Hartlepool if we mobilise them.
“More needs to be done to encourage consumption of fresh fruit and veg, it is really important for health and wellbeing.
“Some of it is to do with families, if the rest of the family is not eating fresh fruit and veg and never has done it is going to be harder for children and other family members.
“If you can cook using them then a lot of this would fall into place.
“But some families are brought up and used to having takeaways a lot, it’s not healthy.
“We need to build familiarity and break down barriers to get people eating fresh fruit and veg and eating more healthily.”
Councillors called for more education on the topic in schools to get people using and eating fruit and vegetables from a young age.
Coun Lesley Hamilton said: “It’s a real problem in Hartlepool where parents can’t cook.
“At one point we did take part in a scheme teaching children to cook in schools who would then teach their parents.
“There’s a gap there we should be tapping in to, I don’t know how we do it.”
Coun Ged Hall said: “We need the circumstances and the time to get into schools and to spread the gospel.”
The figures shown to the audit and governance committee came as part of a report showing how the area was fairing in line with Public Health England’s national framework.
The 5 A Day campaign is based on advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), which recommends eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables a day.
This can help lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer.
Nic Marko, Local Democracy Reporting Service