LONDON (Reuters) - A British peer in Prime Minister David Cameron's party said on Monday that poor people often go hungry because they cannot cook properly and so are forced to buy expensive foods loaded with sugar and fat.
Baroness Anne Jenkin, a friend of the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, said a lack of cooking skills was partly to blame for the failure of some poor people to produce nutritious meals.
"We've lost a lot of our cooking skills. Poor people don't know how to cook," Jenkin said at the launch of a parliamentary report into Hunger and Food Poverty published on Monday.
"I had a large bowl of porridge today, which cost 4p (pence). A large bowl of sugary cereals will cost you 25p."
There was no answer from her telephone in parliament's House of Lords but she later apologised.
"I made a mistake. I was stupidly speaking unscripted," she told BBC radio. "As a society we have lost our ability to cook. Life is considerably cheaper if you are able to cook."
The comments thrust Britain's obsession with class into an already emotionally charged debate about hunger and poverty as millions of Britons prepare to celebrate Christmas.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has said he found seeing the hungry in Britain to be less serious but more shocking than the plight of those starving in some places in Africa.
Justin Welby, head of the 80-million strong Anglican communion, compared his two recent experiences of seeing hungry people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to talking to a family making a collection of free food in England.
"I found their plight more shocking. It was less serious, but it was here. And they weren't careless with what they had – they were just up against it," Welby said.
"The scale of waste in this country is astonishing. As a nation we discard about 15 million tons of food a year, at least four million thrown out by households," he said.
The cross-party parliamentary report highlighted the growing reliance by Britons on food banks, which provide people with free food and supplies.
The inquiry found that the number of people provided with emergency food assistance by one charity, the Trussell Trust, rose to 913,138 in 2013-14, up seven-fold from 2011-12.
Delays in paying state benefits was the reason many people visited food banks, the inquiry found.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Jon Boyle