‘Healthy food costs more than processed items’

A basket of healthy food still costs more than less healthy processed goods — heaping pressure on low-income families or those on social welfare if they want to maintain a healthy diet, a new study has found.

The research was conducted for the food safety promotion board Safefood and estimated that the total cost of a weekly minimum essential food basket, a healthy food basket, for six household types. It found the basket of items ranged from €51.19 for a single person living in a rural household, to €159.54 for a two-parent, two-child (primary and secondary school age) family also living in a rural area.

It also found that the cost of a healthy basket of food accounts for a large percentage (15% to 36%) when presented as the proportion of household income, and that the price of a minimum essential food basket also accounts for a large percentage (18% to 26%) of household spending when presented as one of the items in the core minimum essential standard of living costs.

According to the report, households living in rural areas have to spend a larger portion of their income on the food basket than those living in urban areas — between €4 and €14 extra per week.

This is partly because of a greater reliance on local shops, which can be more expensive, and a greater spend on extra food for visitors.

The report also found food costs for a child increase as the child gets older, resulting in significant costs for a household with a teenager.

One positive development was the proportion of income spent on the food basket was lower for all household types in 2016 than in 2014.

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This was due to a fall in food prices over the two-year period, and an increase in some social welfare entitlements, and in the national minimum wage.

The study was conducted by Bernadette MacMahon and Noreen Moloney of the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice.

Dr MacMahon said while the majority of parents wanted their children to eat reasonably well, they were often left juggling the bills, with food cost often one of the few items left at their discretion.

Dr MacMahon also said there was scope for teaching children the basics of cooking in schools so that it would prepare them to eat healthier later in life.

“I do believe there is not enough done in schools about it. If we are putting an emphasis on health and avoiding obesity, education is key,” she said. n www.safefood.eu

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