Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Food Poverty

Photo of Violet WynneViolet Wynne (Clare, Sinn Fein)
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270. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the research and data material that was used by her Department for the purposes of measuring food poverty; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23953/22]

Photo of Joe O'BrienJoe O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Green Party)
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There is no official food poverty indicator in Ireland. However, in 2012 the Economic and Social Research Institute (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. This measure is derived using data collected as part of the annual Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC). For 2020, the achieved sample size for SILC was 4,243 households and 10,683 individuals.

Using this approach food poverty is measured by the percentage of individuals experiencing one of more of the following:

1. Unable to afford a meal with meat, or vegetarian equivalent, every second day. This indicator suggests severe food deprivation, and is one of the 11 deprivation items used for the consistent poverty measure.

2. Unable to afford a weekly roast dinner (or vegetarian equivalent). This indicator refers to the affordability of food, and in addition, the affordability of a cultural norm. While reference to a weekly roast may seem outdated, the indicator refers to those who cannot afford this. This item is also one of the 11 deprivation items used for the consistent poverty measure.

3. Missing one substantial meal in the last fortnight due to lack of money. This item, in its reference to the affordability of food, but not the quality or adequacy of it, refers to severe food deprivation. This item is not one of the 11 deprivation items used for the consistent poverty measure. Also, it is asked of all respondents over 16 years of age whereas the other deprivation items are asked at a household level.

Table 1: Percentage of the population experiencing food poverty

2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Food poverty rate (%) 13.1 12.2 9.8 8.7 7.0 7.4

The most recent Survey of Income and Living Conditions data was published by the CSO last week (6 May 2022) which will enable the calculation of the most recent rate of food poverty based on these indicators.

Photo of Violet WynneViolet Wynne (Clare, Sinn Fein)
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271. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the research and data material that was used by the Working Group on Food Poverty in pursuit of its goals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23954/22]

Photo of Violet WynneViolet Wynne (Clare, Sinn Fein)
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272. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the selected case study areas to be used in her Department’s research proposal to analyse the prevalence of food poverty; the drivers of food poverty that have been identified to date by his Department; the service providers and actors relating to food poverty in the State; the gaps identified by his Department in the service provision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23955/22]

Photo of Joe O'BrienJoe O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Green Party)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 271 and 272 together.

The Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020 – 2025, which is a whole of Government strategy to reduce poverty and make Ireland one of the most socially inclusive countries in the EU, includes a commitment to ‘Develop a comprehensive programme of work to further explore the drivers of food poverty and to identify mitigating actions’ (Commitment 61).

The Food Poverty Working Group, which I chair, was established in April 2021 and aims to tackle the issue of food poverty in accordance with this commitment. The group met on four occasions in 2021 and has met twice this year to date. The group has focused on two pieces of work to date. The first is a high-level mapping exercise of programmes, services and supports across Government that address food poverty and provide supports in this area.

The second piece of work is the development of a research proposal. The group is aware that extensive research into food poverty exists, and any upcoming research and events are discussed at Food Poverty Working Group meetings. The following research was brought to the attention of the Working Group by its members in discussions of existing research:

- BFBD - Food Poverty Report: A fifth of Adults in Ireland Worry over Food Budget. Press release available here: www.kelloggs.ie/en_IE/who-we-are/press-release/food-poverty-report.html

- Dublin Region Homeless Executive (2021) On-Street Food Services in Dublin: A Review. Available at: On-Street Food Services in Dublin: A Review (homelessdublin.ie)

- FoodCloud 2021 research for tender: How community groups and charities supported people through the provision of food during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

- Friel, S., Conlon, C. (2004) Food Poverty and Policy. Available here: Food poverty and policy (lenus.ie)

- Healy, A.E. (2019) ‘Measuring food poverty in Ireland: The importance of including exclusion’, Irish Journal of Sociology, 27(2), pp. 105–127. doi: 10.1177/0791603519828313.

- Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (IUNA) provide excellent DAFM funded surveys, reports and publications. Available here: Iuna | About Us | Dietary Research | Nutritional Research

- Safefood (2021) What is the cost of a healthy food basket in Ireland in 2020? Available at: www.safefood.net/professional/research/research-reports/what-is-the-cost-of-a-healthy-food-basket-in-ireland

- Safefood 2021 research for tender: Communicating food poverty – understanding the current discourse on the island of Ireland

- Sugrue, D (2015) Food Poverty and Policy in Ireland: A Review of the Literature. Available at: www.ucdsmj.com/food-poverty

- United Nation (2015) Sustainable Development Goals -SDG2 Zero Hunger. Available at: sdgs.un.org/goals/goal2

The research proposal developed by the Working Group seeks to analyse the prevalence of food poverty in two case study areas: one urban and one rural. Broadly speaking, there are a range of known drivers of food poverty including: affordability; accessibility; sufficiency; and quality. However, this research aims to identify the drivers of food poverty in each case study area and examine the range of service providers and actors relating to food poverty in each area. It should also identify any gaps and overlaps in service provision. The findings from this research should further inform the delivery of commitment 61 of the Roadmap for Social Inclusion.

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