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A third of calls made to St Vincent De Paul are from people struggling to afford food

One in 11 people in Ireland are estimated to experience food poverty.

Image: Photocall Ireland

ONE IN THREE calls made to St Vincent de Paul are related to food poverty, the charity said today.

Annually, St Vincent de Paul spends between €11 millon and €12 million per year helping households with the cost of food.

Food poverty refers to the inability to afford, or to have access to, food to make up a healthy diet, and data from the Survey of Income and Living Conditions estimates that one in 11 people in Ireland experience it.

Families tend to cut back on food when struggling financially because a food budget is easier to control than the cost of rent or utilities, Dr Tricia Keilthy, the charity’s head of social justice, said.

So food is typically what families cut back on when times are tough. Rising housing costs means that this is increasingly the case.

“While costs of food have decreased in recent years, some households are better able to avail of cheaper food than others,” Kielthy said.

People living in rural areas without access to a car are not able to take advantage of deals and offers in larger supermarkets, she added.

Research by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice shows that the average cost of a healthy food basket for a two-parent household with two school-aged children in an urban area is €146 per week, compared to €160 a week for the same of household in a rural area.

As well as the health impacts of a poor diet, we should also be concerned about the impacts of food poverty on children’s social, emotional and educational outcomes. When children go to school hungry it has an impact on their well-being, concentration and attention levels, behaviour, learning and motivation.

Long-term solutions that tackle the underlying causes of food poverty are needed in addition programmes like the School Meals Programme, Kielthy said.

She called on all government departments to support the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion, currently being developed by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. The plan aims to reduce consistent poverty across Ireland.

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