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Almost one in ten people struggled with food poverty in 2021, according to government

Approximately 8.9% of Irish people experience food poverty according to a government survey, around 445,000 people.

A GOVERNMENT REPORT on food poverty launched today has found that 8.9% of those surveyed in 2021 were experiencing food poverty.

This figure could rise again this year as increases in food, energy and other essentials take hold.

Minister of State with responsibility for social inclusion in the Department of Social Protection Joe O’Brien, established a Working Group on Food Poverty last year to examine the issue.

Trends of the survey, which had 4,243 households and 10,683 individuals respond, found that food poverty was falling year on year until the pandemic, which shot the 2020 result up to 12%.

Minister O’Brien, who is chair of the Working Group on Food Poverty said that tackling food poverty was highly important and that September’s budget should reflect that.

“I have a strong interest in addressing all types of poverty and I am acutely aware that many families are struggling at the moment given the increase in the cost of living.”

“Ahead of Budget 2023 I will be contacting relevant Ministers requesting that they further develop their roles in addressing food poverty.” 

“Poverty is multi-dimensional and needs to be addressed on a number of fronts. Food poverty, in particular, is a complex issue,” he said.

The survey used several indicators to determine food poverty, and found that approximately 445,000 people experience it.

These included people who couldn’t afford a meal with meat every second day, those who missed one substantial meal in the last fortnight due to a lack of money, and people   who were unable to afford a weekly roast dinner.

Food poverty was at its highest level in recent times in 2014 at 13.1% and fell approximately 1 or 2% each year until reaching its lowest level of 7% in 2018, followed by a slight increase to 7.4% in 2019.

The working group comprises officials from a range of government departments along with representatives from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Crosscare and the Children’s Rights Alliance. 

In May of this year a joint study between the government and St. Vincent de Paul, ‘Uncovering Food Poverty in Ireland; A Hidden Deprivation‘ estimated that 350,000 people were subject to food poverty.

It found that low-income families with children, lone parents, people with disabilities and renters were especially vulnerable and contained first hand accounts from people at risk or suffering from food poverty.

One section read: “I got a notice of eviction from my landlord, because I couldn’t pay the rent. So I needed to pay the rent and, in order to pay the rent, I had to come up here (SVP) and get food. Rather than spend an extra €20 or €30 on shopping, I’d have to put it towards the rent.”

Today’s report estimated that government expenditure in 2021 on schemes that directly addressed food poverty was €89,001,076, or approximately €200 per person affected by it.

However expenditure on broader schemes that include a food poverty as an aspect was considerably higher at €399,232,000, or €898 per person.

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