New research published by safefood reveals extent of food poverty in Ireland

16 Oct, 2012. New research¹ has revealed the extent of food poverty in Ireland and those groups in society living in food poverty. The research findings, summarised in safefood’s report ‘Measuring Food Poverty In Ireland – The Indicators and Implicationswhich was launched today at a seminar in Dublin, estimates that 10% of people are now living in food poverty, a rise of 3% between 2009 and 2010.

The research, which uses data from the annual CSO Survey² on Income and Living Conditions (SILC), provides a first step in measuring the experience of food poverty in Ireland by combining three food deprivation items to quantify the level of food poverty today.

Those most at risk of living in food poverty identified by the research include the unemployed; people on low income; those living with an illness or disability or who rate their health as being poor; those with low education attainment; families with more than three children aged under 18 and; lone parents.
Launching the research, Deputy Jerry Buttimer T.D, Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children said “I welcome this valuable research which I believe represents a major advance in providing us with a measurement of food poverty in Ireland. 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. By identifying those most at risk, we can begin to work towards helping those most at need in what is a key health issue”.
Commenting at the event, Mr Martin Higgins, Chief Executive, safefood said:

The development of this food poverty indicator will now enable food poverty trends to be monitored and tracked on an annual basis. It is well recognised that those at socio-economic disadvantage eat less healthily; with this new indicator, it will help to identify those groups experiencing food poverty and will allow for more focused strategies and targeted interventions to tackle diet-related health inequalities in society”.

Previous research commissioned by safefood in this area found that food is often seen as the flexible expense in people’s budgets with other expenses such as rent, fuel, etc often taking priority (Standard of Healthy Living on the island of Ireland, Friel & Conlon; safefood 2004). For people experiencing food poverty, the main concern is often just to ‘put food on the table’ and the nutritional content does not take priority. People see barriers such as the cost of healthier food choices, convenience and potential food wastage as being difficult to overcome.
Speaking at the seminar, Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health and Nutrition, safefood said “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. 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.”
Joint report author Caroline Carney added “The SILC is the official source of data on income and living conditions in Ireland. It contains a number of questions³ dealing specifically with food-related experiences. We developed a measure based on these items which includes the different dimensions of food deprivation. During the ‘Celtic Tiger’ era, rates of food poverty dropped between 2005 and 2007, but increased by 3% between 2009 and 2010, the most recent year for which SILC data are available.”
Published by the Department of Social Protection, as part of the Department’s research programme to monitor poverty trends with the ESRI, the report ’Constructing a Food Poverty Indicator for Ireland using the Survey on Income and Living Conditions’ (Carney, C; Maitre, B; Department of Social Protection) is available for download from and

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For more information, please contact

Susie Cunningham/ Rachel Ahearne, WHPR
Tel: 01 669 0030
Mobile: 087 850 5055 (SC)/ 087 134 0390 (RA)
Dermot Moriarty, safefood
Tel: 01 448 0600 and 086 381 1034


¹‘Constructing a Food Poverty Indicator for Ireland Using the Survey on Income and Living Conditions’; (Carney, C; Maitre, B 2012) published by the Department of Social Protection, using data from the annual Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC)
²The Survey on Income and Living (SILC) is an annual household survey by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) which asks a broad range of questions related to income and living conditions. The most recent data available is from the 2010 survey during which 11,576 individuals in Ireland were surveyed.
³The three food deprivation items from SILC relate to the affordability of food and are as follow:
  1. The inability to afford  a meal with meat or vegetarian equivalent every second day
  2. The inability to afford a roast or vegetarian equivalent once a week
  3. Missed a meal in the last two weeks due to a lack of money