A new survey by YouGov, UK, on behalf of Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., revealed that there is a growing crisis in family nutrition across Europe.

The research went to a sample of over 8,000 people, which included over 2,500 parents of children 18 and under across France, Germany, Italy and Spain, and found that families are struggling to afford a balanced and healthy diet. As a result, these families are increasingly reliant on breakfast clubs, food banks and charities, especially during school holidays. It also revealed that parents often sacrifice their own meals in order to be able to feed their children.

According to the research, 15% of people across Europe disagree with the statement that fresh fruit and vegetables are affordable and easy to access where they live, while nearly a quarter (23%) disagreed with the same statement about fresh meat or fish. The research also found that while families felt they understood the importance of a healthy balanced diet, food costs and availability force them to make less nutritious choices.

In France, 41% of families felt they struggled to afford the types of food they want their family to eat, while in Germany, 35% of people admitted they want their families to eat healthy but can't afford to do so. This rose to 36% in Italy, 38% in Spain and 48% in France.

"The message from families across Europe is that parents know how they want to feed their children, but food costs are leaving many families facing a barrier to healthy and balanced nutrition,” says Gráinne O'Brien, director of external communications at Kellogg Europe. “This is having an impact on the nutritional health of children and their parents, many of whom are facing impossible choices.”

With parents struggling to feed their families, the research also highlighted the extent to which families in Europe are relying on external support. Six percent of people said that they receive food at least once a week from charities and non-governmental organizations, yet this figure increased by a large amount during school holidays.

In fact, 39% of parents in Spain and in Germany said they relied on these external organizations more during holidays compared to term time. In France the figure was 34%, with Italian parents relying on charities, non-governmental organizations and others for food more often at 41%.

"The research from Kellogg is mirrored in what our member food banks are telling us. We are seeing an increase in demand for food, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables, and for this we rely largely on companies to think about food banks before they dispose of edible foods,” adds Carolina Diaz-Lonborg, communications consultant, European Federation of Food Banks (FEBA). “As well as much needed food and provisions, many of our members are starting to look at providing support and advice on how to have a healthy balanced diet."