Almost half a million people in Ireland cannot afford to sustain a healthy diet, according to new research commissioned by the Department of Social Protection.
Up to 10 percent of the population experienced food poverty in Ireland in 2010, which represents a three percent increase from the previous year. The study ‘Constructing a Food Poverty Indicator for Ireland’ shows that families with children are three times as likely as those without to struggle with food poverty.
The research showed that some 450,000 people do not have the financial means to afford a meal with meat every second day or cook a roast dinner once a week. People in this category also missed at least one substantial meal over a two-week period due to lack of money.
Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, director of human health and nutrition at Safefood, said the effects are both short and long term.
“The immediate effects of food poverty range from difficulties in concentration and poor energy levels in children, to wellbeing issues in everyday life for adults,” she said.
“The longer-term, public health consequences for those households living in food poverty are ill-health and higher rates of diet-related chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain cancers.”
Jerry Buttimer, chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, described the report as valuable advice.
“Whether in rural towns or urban cities, the experience of food poverty is very real and damaging to the health of children and adults and also impacts on their future prospects,” he said.
“By identifying those most at risk, we can begin to work towards helping those most at need in what is a key health issue.”
Despite the high numbers, food poverty was lower in Ireland than in many European countries, including Germany, Britain, and Italy.