Families suffering as 450,000 'can't afford' to eat properly
Around 450,000 people in Ireland cannot afford to eat properly and families with children are much more likely to suffer, a new study has found.
The new report published by Safefood shows 10pc of the population experienced food poverty in 2010, an increase of 3pc since the previous year.
The study measures the numbers of people unable to afford a meal with meat every second day, eat a roast dinner once a week, or who had missed a meal in the past fortnight because they couldn't afford it.
This has significant health and behaviour effects in both the short-term and longer term, said Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Safefood Director of Human Health.
"The immediate effects of food poverty range from difficulties in concentration and poor energy levels in children, to well-being issues in everyday life for adults," she said.
In the longer term being unable to afford to eat well could lead to ill health and higher rates of chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity and certain cancers.
The study found that the risk of food poverty was even worse for people in poor health, with one in five of this group sometimes unable to afford proper meals.
And 14pc of people couldn't afford to have friends or family over for a meal, which limited their social participation, even though it wasn't deemed a measure of poverty.
Single parent families were twice as likely to experience food poverty as purely adult households.
And families with two adults and three or more children were three times as likely to face difficulties buying food.
"The experience of food poverty is very real and damaging to the health of children and adults and impacts on their future prospects," Dail Health Committee chairman Dr Jerry Buttimer said at the launch of the report.
However food poverty was lower in Ireland than in many other European countries, including Germany, Britain and Italy, the study shows.
Eurostat figures showed more of the Irish population could afford meat than all but six other countries.
Report author Caroline Carney said food poverty had fallen between 2005 and 2007 but the most recent data showed it rising again after 2009.
Meanwhile, a separate survey carried out for Kelloggs Ireland found that 69pc of teachers said pupils were coming to school hungry in the mornings and 59pc said the problem had got worse in the last year.