Defining, measuring and predicting food insecurity in Northern Ireland:
: A stakeholder approach to inform business and policy implications and response

  • Emma Beacom

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This research examines food poverty definition, measurement, and predictors in Northern Ireland (NI), and considers the implications for society, business and the economy of this phenomenon, in order to identify opportunities for business and policy response. A sequential mixed-methods approach was employed, involving qualitative data collection with stakeholders through interviews and roundtables, and quantitative secondary data analysis. The lack of an agreed measure of food insecurity in the United Kingdom (UK) acted as a catalyst for this study, which aimed to evaluate stakeholder opinions on past, present and potential future measurement approaches in NI. This thesis endorses the use of the United States Household Food Security Survey Module (US HFSSM), and presents considerations based on stakeholder opinion and the literature as to how this module could be revised. This study examined stakeholder opinion on the conceptual definition of food poverty, and offers recommendations as to elements of the food poverty experience which are important to capture in a definition, which can inform UK adoption and endorsement of an existing definition, or development of a novel definition. Predictors of food insecurity were identified in the literature, by stakeholders, and tested statistically. This study therefore contributes to the theoretical literature by confirming, disconfirming and extending, where appropriate, predictors identified in the literature, as relevant in the NI context. Predictors identified as significant in the NI context in this study were as follows: age, number of adults in the household, health status, anxiety / depression, employment status, receipt of state benefits, and housing tenure. An evident gap in the literature was the lack of applicability of the topic to business, therefore this research aimed to examine stakeholders’ opinions as to the implications of food poverty for business and the economy, and thereby inform recommendations and opportunities for business and policy response. Stakeholders considered the link between food poverty and business to be important, as members of a society living in food poverty will be less productive, and therefore less able to contribute meaningfully in the workplace and to the economy. Further, health care costs and welfare costs associated with those in food poverty present a further cost implication to the economy, therefore investing in addressing food poverty was considered important to reduce long term costs. It was agreed that any response should be cross-departmental and cross-sectoral for maximum effect. A conceptual model was developed which integrates findings from this study relating to household risk factors (predictors), individual and macroeconomic implications, and opportunities for business and policy response, thereby providing a theoretical contribution and addressing gaps in the UK / NI food poverty literature. 
Date of AwardDec 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSinead Furey (Supervisor), Lynsey Elizabeth Hollywood (Supervisor) & Paul Humphreys (Supervisor)


  • Food Poverty
  • Food Insecurity

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