Caitríona Twomey, Director, Cork Penny Dinners; homeless campaigner Father Peter McVerry; Dr Fiona Chambers Head of School of Education at UCC and Prof Pat Fitzpatrick, UCC pictured during their visit to Cork Penny Dinners kitchen facilities and new housing project last October. Photo: Daragh Mc Swe

Report: 10 per cent of Irish people experience food poverty

Food poverty – it’s such a scary word and one we think of when talking about third world countries. We just don’t believe that we could experience food poverty here in Ireland but according to reports by the Food Safety Authority, about 10 per cent of Irish people experience food poverty. Now, before we all panic, food poverty doesn’t automatically mean that no food at all is available. To establish if you experience food poverty, we need to look at the 4 As:

Availability – is healthy and nutritional food available where you live? Affordability – can you buy good quality and healthy food? Awareness – do you know if the food you are eating is healthy and of benefit to you? Accessibility – is it easy for you to access healthy food?

With one million tonnes of food wasted every year in Ireland, it is hard to believe that anyone in Ireland should suffer from a lack of nutritional food but the Cork Food Map shows that there are areas, especially in North Cork, that don’t seem to have healthy food at their doorstep.

The map also shows that 76 per cent of food advertising near primary schools was about ultra-processed foods like fast food etc.

In addition, the map shows how many fast food outlets, convenience stores etc are in walking distance of primary schools. It is scary to see how children are being manipulated by these advertisements and demanding these foods at home as well.

What shocked me most was that North Cork has a higher density of food poverty than the rest of the city – it shows that accessibility and availability of healthy food is concentrated in more advantaged areas. Also food education seems to be higher in these areas than more vulnerable locations.

We can of course blame everything on the supermarkets and convenience stores, but is it just a bit more complex? What about the large corporate giants who have super laboratories and paying scientists big bucks to come up with new products all the time and selling it to the public as time-money-life saving items we so desperately (don’t) need?

At the launch of the Cork Food Map, Joe McNamee spoke about how our eating and shopping habits have changed. And when he spoke about our mothers who bought their food in specialty shops – meat at the local butcher, bread at the local bakery, fruit and vegetables at the greengrocer – I had to admit that’s the way I was brought up.

But now, we expect everything to be in one convenient location – the anonymous supermarket where we are not sure about where the meat is from or where the vegetables were grown.

I have never bought into ‘I have no time to cook’ or ‘I have no time to eat sitting down’ habits – I like to sit down for my meal and can’t even remember the last time I ate while walking.

Ready-made meals lack flavour and substance and create such a waste that I prefer to cook my dinner.

According to studies Joe was referring to, 30 years ago, we spent about 90 minutes cooking on average, while these days it is only 30 minutes we are investing in providing ourselves and our families with a nutritional meal.

The question remains: do we create our own food poverty?

It might be a good opportunity to talk to your local counsellors and TDs when they come knocking on the door for your vote about food education, investment into less fortunate areas and support for small scale food businesses.

The Cork Food Map was created and launched by the Cork Food Policy Council.

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