Food poverty

Food poverty is the inability of individuals and households to obtain an adequate and nutritious diet, often because they cannot afford healthy food or there is a lack of shops in their area that are easy to reach.

Food poverty is an urgent issue affecting Northern Ireland. Research carried out by the FSA in Northern Ireland found that although most homeless people are getting enough to eat, the quality of their diet is poor. The research found that the key barriers to eating a balanced diet are their financial situation and education/cooking skills, as well as depression/stress, alcohol and drug abuse contributing to a lack of appetite, and a perception that food was not always seen as a priority.

The findings from the research was used to inform decisions about how FSA in Northern Ireland can strengthen partnerships with key stakeholders in supporting, encouraging and developing effective policy responses to tackling food poverty and homelessness. This led to the Department of Health and Social Services in Northern Ireland asking the FSA in Northern Ireland to include food poverty in its remit

Food poverty indicator

Members of the Food Poverty Network are tasked with developing a food poverty indicator based on routinely available data. Currently there is no measure of food poverty on the island of Ireland and such an indicator would allow for a quantifiable assessment of the extent of food poverty across the island of Ireland in order to inform practice and policy.

The FSA in Northern Ireland is co-chair with Safefood, of the Food Poverty Network.

Co-ordinated approach to food poverty

In addition, the obesity prevention strategy for Northern Ireland – A Fitter Future for All: Framework for Preventing and Addressing Overweight and Obesity in Northern Ireland 2012-2022 – seeks to develop a coordinated approach to address food poverty. The strategy sets medium-term outcomes (2016 to 2019) that ensure local support, resources and facilities are available to those experiencing food poverty. The long-term outcomes (2020 to 2022) include ensuring that a greater proportion of adults are eating a healthy diet. The indicator will be the percentage of adults experiencing food poverty.

The FSA in Northern Ireland is currently supporting the Council for the Homeless in Northern Ireland and its FareShare project by funding a project worker in Belfast to support the building of capacity for the expansion of its activities outside Belfast and ultimately to other cities across the island of Ireland.

Since 2010, the FSA in Northern Ireland has jointly funded, Safefood, a FareShare depot in Northern Ireland. FareShare sources quality, surplus, 'fit for purpose' food and drink from retailers and manufacturers throughout Ireland and redistributes it to local charities feeding hungry and vulnerable people in the community.

The FSA in Northern Ireland is also working with the Consumer Council on a Food Shopping research project, which provides Northern Ireland-specific data and gives a valuable insight as to the extent to which rising food costs have been felt by consumers and how they have responded.