What is the cost of a healthy food basket in the Republic of Ireland in 2018?

Date: June, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-905767-89-2

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Introduction

report cover of a shopping basket“Food poverty” is defined as the inability to have an adequate and nutritious diet due to issues of affordability or accessibility. One in ten households in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) are experiencing food poverty. The cost of healthy food is a major contributing factor in people’s inability to access a healthy diet. Food poverty is multidimensional. It encompasses both the lack of access to a nutritionally adequate diet and the consequential impact on health and social participation.

Among the barriers to a healthy diet are competing pressures within a limited household budget and the unavailability of local stores that stock an adequate range of healthy foods. Rural areas and smaller urban towns may not have accessible transport to larger stores offering a wide range of healthy food items. Low literacy and food skills, lack of access to education and information on healthy eating are also contributing factors to an inadequate and unhealthy diet.

This study is the third to determine the cost of a “minimum essential food basket” for six household types across urban and rural Ireland. The first study in 2015 covered the period 2006 to 2014. The second study in 2016 covered a two year timespan from 2014 to 2016. This study also covers a two year timespan, from 2016 to 2018.

The research places an emphasis on “needs, not wants”, and produces comprehensive, transparent, itemised lists (of over 2,000 items, goods and services) detailing what is required to meet minimum needs and enable an acceptable minimum standard of living. A minimum essential standard of living (MESL) is not a poverty standard but is a level at which no one should be expected to live below.

Budgets specifying the actual average weekly cost of a minimum acceptable standard are compiled, producing MESL budgets for 90% of households across urban and rural Ireland.

Social inclusion is an important aspect of the food baskets, as spending on restaurants and extra for visitors are included in the cost. This ensures that the social and cultural aspects of food are reflected in the “healthy” food baskets and that the households are able to participate in activities and practices considered to be a part of everyday life.

In essence the MESL provides an alternative, and complementary, measure for assessing relative poverty – as understood in terms of ability to participate in normal activities and have a dignified minimum standard of living which is regarded as acceptable by society generally.

The MESL uniquely highlights the extent to which individuals and households can afford a standard of living which enables participation in the social and economic norms of Irish society. An income below the MESL threshold means individuals & households must choose which essentials to go without, in order to make ends meet.

Further information on the research, and the detailed MESL expenditure and income needs can be found on www.budgeting.ie.