One in 10 people suffers food poverty across the country, new figures have revealed.
As trade unions Mandate and Unite called for the Government to release vital funds to help tackle the problem, they cited pensioners, the newly unemployed and lone parents as among the worst off.
Mandate general secretary John Douglas said food poverty means someone has been forced to miss a meal because they could not afford it.
“It may mean they cannot afford a meal with meat or the vegetarian equivalent every second day or afford a roast or vegetarian equivalent once a week,” Mr Douglas said.
“Those suffering food poverty may be lone-parent families, they may be the newly unemployed, they may be pensioners – and they may be people in work, struggling to survive on low wages.”
In their Hungry for Action report, the unions revealed the county-by-county breakdown of food poverty.
It revealed people in Donegal are among the worst hit, with one in nine unable to afford basic meals.
The unions have urged the Government to support organisations that work to tackle food poverty to make sure they have enough funds.
They have also appealed for an increase in the minimum wage and more support in benefits to social welfare recipients.
Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said food poverty is a problem in every county across Ireland.
He said the Government should give €10m to organisations that provide food assistance, which he said are stretched to their limits.
“Food poverty in Ireland today is part of a policy-made disaster – austerity, and the collapse in incomes it has brought in its wake,” Mr Kelly said.
He added: “But the cause of food poverty will only be addressed by starting to increase the incomes of the most deprived in our society, which is why we are also calling for an increase in basic Social Protection rates, and an increase in the minimum wage to help address the growing problem of in-work poverty.”
Mandate and Unite have also called for an emergency relief budget in the new year to start reversing cuts to low-income groups.
They have claimed the food poverty crisis has increased dramatically since the start of the economic crisis.