Food poverty

lady shoppingWe are what we eat and inequalities in people’s nutrition contribute to inequalities in people’s health. Data from Ireland and Northern Ireland shows that people living on lower incomes tend to have less healthy diets with lower fruit and vegetable intakes and consumption of more processed foods that are high in saturated fats and salt.

Food poverty is defined as ‘the inability to afford or have reasonable access to food which provides a healthy diet’. Food poverty is multidimensional, referring not only to the lack of access to a nutritionally adequate diet but also to the related impacts on health, culture and social participation.

The issue of food poverty has a significant interface with the obesity epidemic. Food poverty, and the inherent disadvantages associated with it, can be caused by a combination of the following distinct barriers:

  • Financial access.
    Low income households may find it difficult to afford a healthy diet. A shortage of money also has a direct effect on physical access to food.
  • Physical access.
    Low income households may find it difficult to access affordable healthy food. For example, edge-of-town supermarkets combined with poor transport facilities result in people having to shop in higher priced local shops where there may be less choice of reasonably priced fresh or nutritious food.
  • Access to information.
    It can be challenging for households, particularly those on a low income, to understand the nutritional information on food packaging and to be aware of key nutritional and food safety messages.

Food poverty: IPH portfolio

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