Measuring the impact of rurality on household food poverty risk
: toward the development of a multi-variable, evidence-informed 'At Risk of Food Poverty Index' (ARFPI)

  • Natasha Mc Clelland

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Food poverty is a complex and multifaceted problem. The structural perspective that this thesis adopts is that food poverty is incurred as a result of spatial inequalities that interact and influence how a household may obtain food. Over recent years the structural variables of food poverty and their causative factors, including intervention programmes, are being driven to the forefront of public policy. As such, food poverty is a pressing topical issue, receiving considerable public and political discussion.

This research examines the structural drivers of food poverty and identifies if geographical disparities exist between rural and urban locations, in respect of food affordability, accessibility and availability, in the study region of Northern Ireland. A multiphase research strategy was employed, involving four linear research phases, to develop a measurable and high-resolution mapped ‘At risk of Food Poverty Index' (ARFPI). The research utilises Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to apply spatial analysis techniques to identify Census Small Areas at greatest potential risk of food poverty.

The results indicate that rural dwellers face greater disadvantage in respect of obtaining a nutritionally adequate diet. The ‘out of pocket’ cost metric is a novel methodological approach to investigating the cost of a nutritionally adequate healthy food baskets and further research is needed to examine this in relation to minimum income standards. Furthermore, the research recognises Census Small Areas at greatest potential risk of food poverty, demonstrating where spatial variations exist in relation to rural and urban food poverty. Beyond the research, policy responses to food poverty need to consider geographic disparities in intervention programmes. The ‘ARFPI’ is considered as a valid decision-support tool which can be applied to support targeted interventions aimed at reducing food poverty risk.

This research identifies communities that are exposed to geographic variances in terms of food poverty. It is imperative that a household’s food poverty status is not epitomised by a person’s residential location and that food is not further characterised by geographical discrepancies, whereby households are deprived by the distributional consequences of their locality.
Date of AwardJun 2021
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsDepartment for the Economy
SupervisorLynsey Elizabeth Hollywood (Supervisor), Sinead Furey (Supervisor) & Paul Mc Kenzie (Supervisor)


  • Food poverty
  • Food insecurity
  • Spatial inequality
  • Northern Ireland
  • Healthy food baskets
  • Geographic information systems
  • Census small areas

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