Food Poverty in Northern Ireland: The impact of income

Joanna Purdy, Gary McFarlane, J Rugkasa, H Harvey, K Willis, Sin��ad Furey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Research by the Public Health Alliance has revealed that lone-parent households, large families (4+ children), older people and unemployed persons are more likely to experience or be at risk of food poverty. The inability to access healthy, affordable food cab be attributed to the amount of money available to spend on food. As this research study has demonstrated, inequalities in terms of the amount and proportion of money spent on food and the types of food purchased exist for low-income households. Analysis of the Expenditure and Food Survey data for Northern Ireland has revealed that the highest income earners spend almost three times more on food (10% of budget) compared to the lowest income group (16% of budget), demonstrating inequality both in terms of the amount of money and proportion of the household budget spent on food. Pensioner households were among the most vulnerable, spending up to 20% of their household budget on food. It was also revealed that unemployed households had the lowest expenditure on food per person per week; and as the number of children in a household increased, expenditure in all the main food categories decreased. The impact of limited economic resources on dietary intake is evident through the following observations:
Lone-parent households had the lowest consumption and most limited variety of fruit and vegetables;
Intake of white bread was highest among households in the lowest income group;
The lowest income groups had among the highest consumption of processed and prepared mea products;
Those from unemployed households tended to have a higher consumption of meat pies, complete ready meals and other convenience foods;
Consumption of sweet breads, cakes, buns, pastries and biscuits was highest amongst the lowest income groups and older persons.

These trends are indicative of a diet comprising low cost, high energy foods, which are often of poor nutritional quality. whilst economic access is a key contributory factor in food poverty, it is recognised that other factors will restrict the ability of low-income households to access healthy, affordable food. As part of the investigation into food poverty in Northern Ireland, an in-depth qualitative study is being conducted to examine the complex life situations of people experiencing or at risk of food poverty and how they manage their diet in the context of competing demands in terms of economic, social and cultural factors. Findings will be presented at the conference.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImproving consumer skills - Improving consumer choice
Subtitle of host publication3rd International Consumer Sciences Research Conference
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2007
EventImproving consumer skills - improving consumer choice: 3rd International Consumer Sciences Research Conference - Ulster University, Jordanstown, United Kingdom
Duration: 27 Jun 200729 Jun 2007


ConferenceImproving consumer skills - improving consumer choice
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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