Unions have urged the Government to give €10m to charities and increase the minimum wage, claiming that food poverty affects far more people in some counties than the one in 10 national average.
Research by Mandate and Unite suggests it is a problem for one in nine people in Donegal, Monaghan, and Offaly. It is lowest in the capital and other urban centres or commuter counties like Limerick, Kildare, Cork, and Galway.
“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,” said John Douglas, Mandate general secretary and president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
Food poverty means having missed a meal in the past fortnight due to lack of money, being unable to afford a meal with meat (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day, or a roast (or vegetarian equivalent) once a week.
The unions took a Department of Social Protection study finding that one in 10 people experienced food poverty in 2010, and estimated county levels based on average incomes in each one compared to national averages in the same year. While the numbers range from 3,400 in Louth to 112,300 in Dublin, the proportions of food poverty vary between 8.8% in Dublin to almost 12% in Donegal, Offaly, and Monaghan.
Unite research officer Michael Taft said: “The figures are indicative only because there isn’t enough county data to measure other factors affecting food poverty. But unfortunately, the numbers are likely to be higher now because general deprivation increased 8% in 2011, and there have been three regressive budgets since 2010.”
The unions point to growing demand for food and other assistance as evidence of the need for an immediate government response, to include a €10m contribution to organisations already stretched in the approach to Christmas.
Their Hungry for Action study cites Irish Examiner reporting of a 55% yearly rise in numbers being fed by Cork Penny Dinners and the 2,500 meals being served every week by Twist Soup Kitchens.
They want an emergency budget to reverse cuts to low-income groups and an rise in the minimum wage.
“The cause of food poverty will only be addressed by starting to increase the incomes of the most deprived in our society,” said Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly.
Highest levels of food poverty
* Donegal: 18,700 people (11.6% of population)
* : 8,900 (11.6%)
* Monaghan: 7,000 (11.6%)
* Kerry: 16,000 (11%)
* Kilkenny: 10,500 (11%)
* Longford: 4,300 (11%)
Lowest food poverty levels
* Dublin: 112,300 people (8.8%)
* Limerick: 18,500 (9.6%)
* Kildare: 20,200 (9.6%)
* Cork: 50,500 (9.7%)
* Galway: 25,300 (10.1%)
* Louth: 12,500 (10.2%)
* Wicklow: 14,000 (10.2%)
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