Almost one in ten people in Ireland faced food poverty in 2021, according to a Government report released on Monday.
Approximately 8.9 per cent of Irish people struggled with food poverty, the Government survey found – equating to around 445,000 people across the county. The report on government programmes, schemes and supports that address food poverty in Ireland, was welcomed by Joe O’Brien TD, the Minister of State with responsibility for social inclusion in the Department of Social Protection and Chair of the Working Group on Food Poverty.
The findings were based on a survey of 4,234 Irish households and 10,683 individuals. It found that while food poverty in Ireland was falling yearly until Covid hit, after the onset of the pandemic, food poverty accelerated by 12% from 2020 to 2021.
The Working Group on Food Poverty was established last year to work to further explore the drivers of food poverty in Ireland and to identify mitigating factors. The Roadmap set out by the Working Group aims to reduce the percentage of those living in consistent poverty in the Irish population to 2 per cent or less by 2025 and to significantly reduce social exclusion in Ireland.
Those in the Working Group include officials from various government departments, alongside representatives from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Children’s Rights Alliance and Crosscare.
Commenting on the report, Minister O’Brien said he was ‘acutely aware’ that many families are struggling as a result of the cost of living crisis, and he said that the importance of addressing food poverty specifically should be reflected in September’s budget.
“As Minister of State with responsibility for social inclusion in the Department of Social Protection, 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. Poverty is multidimensional and needs to be addressed on a number of fronts.” he said.
“Food poverty, in particular, is a complex issue but one that we must get to grips with which is why I established the Working Group”, he added.
While there is no official food poverty indicator in Ireland, in 2012, the ESRI developed a measure which defined food poverty as the ‘inability to have an adequate and nutritious diet due to issues of affordability or accessibility”. Data was collected as part of the annual Survey on Income and Living Conditions.
The survey employed several indicators in order to determine food poverty, and those who faced it included people who missed one substantial meal over a fortnight because of a lack of money, those who could not afford a meal with meat every second day, and those who were unable to afford a roast dinner weekly.
In response to the report, the Minister also urged free hot meals to be extended to early childcare settings across Ireland, along with the extension of meals-on-wheels programmes for older people.