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10 per cent of Irish population living in food poverty

Those most at risk are those with low incomes, young families and lone parents, according to research commissioned by the Department of Social Protection.

Image: LoopZilla via Creative Commons/Flickr

A NEW STUDY commissioned by the Department of Social Protection has revealed that 10 per cent of the Irish population has been living in food poverty.

The study shows those most at risk of experiencing food poverty include those living on low incomes, families with young children, and one-parent families.

Until now, there has been no standard definition for what constitutes ‘food poverty’. However, the study - Constructing a Food Poverty Indicator for Ireland - has introduced a method for monitoring the problem on an annual basis in the hope of identifying those most at risk and informing policy makers.

The study examined food poverty between 2004 and 2010, employing a system of measuring using three key factors already included in the Central Statistics Office’s consistent poverty measure – plus one additional factor:

1. Not being able to afford a meal containing meat or vegetarian equivalent every second day

Rationale:

This indicator suggests severe food deprivation. The recommended daily allowance is to consume two servings of protein per day. This item is also asked of all EU member states in the EU SILC survey. This item is one of the 11 deprivation items used for the consistent poverty measure.

2. Not being able to afford a roast dinner (or vegetarian equivalent) once a week

Rationale:

This indicator refers to the affordability of food and additionally, in referring to a weekly roast, it refers to affordability of a cultural norm. Though the reference to a weekly roast may be slightly outdated, the indicator refers only to those who cannot afford this.
This item is one of the 11 deprivation items used for the consistent poverty measure.

3. Missing at least one substantial meal over a two-week period due to lack of money

Rationale:

This indicator refers specifically to the respondent not being able to afford a substantial meal on at least one day, during the last fortnight, due to affordability. This item, in its reference to the affordability of food but not to the quality or adequacy of the food, refers to severe food deprivation. This item is not one of the 11 deprivation items used for the consistent poverty measure.

4. Inability to have family or friends for a meal or drink once a month

Rationale:

This indicator refers to the social participatory aspect of food poverty. This is when people may restrict their social patterns due to not being able to afford certain products, or to participate in certain events considered a norm by society. This indicator could be considered a somewhat limited measure of food deprivation as it refers to ‘a meal, or a drink’. This item is one of the 11 deprivation items used for the consistent poverty measure.

Research by the Central Statistics Office shows that  10 per cent of the people questioned for its Survey on Income and Living Conditions in 2010 said they had experienced at least two of these factors.

The study revealed that, overall, the percentage for those unable to afford a meal with meat decreased from four per cent to three per cent during 2004 – 2010.

However, for all other ‘deprivation factors’, the percentage was higher in 2010 than in 2004:

  • The percentage for those unable to afford a roast increased from five per cent to six per cent
  • Those who did not have a substantial meal one day in last fortnight, due to lack of money, increased from five per cent to six per cent
  • Those unable to have family or friends for a meal or drink increased from 11 per cent to 14 per cent

The research found that “living in a household with three adults and children” was the strongest predictor of food poverty. Other predictors included the household head being unemployed, ill or disabled, and households that had three or more children.

Researchers also noted that vulnerable groups such as the homeless, asylum seekers, Travellers, and those living in institutions were not included in the survey, which they said “limited” the findings.

Read: 6 countries where global food crisis is taking terrible toll>
Read: Weekly income for elderly people drops 6 per cent – CSO>

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