Doubling of Food Poverty rates shocking - Crowe
After the Healthy Food For All Initiative today called on the Government to prioritise the critical issue of food poverty, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social and Family Affairs Seán Crowe TD echoed the Initiative's call on those in political power to urgently address this issue.
The Dublin South-West TD said: "The fact that almost one-fifth of the population is at risk of food poverty is a shocking statistic in an Ireland so proud of the 'Celtic Tiger'. While commentators regularly report on poverty figures and statistics, food poverty itself seems to have been comparatively ignored, but the problem is getting worse. In 2003, based on official national data on poverty, up to 10 per cent of the population were considered to be at risk of food poverty. It is of great concern that this figure has almost doubled in just three years.
"The connections between food poverty and poor health and educational attainment are stark. Four percent of people do without a meal containing meat, chicken or fish every second day, while over five percent of people were unable to afford a substantial meal on at least one day out of every two weeks. People having to do without valuable sources of protein are increasing health inequalities.
"Growing levels of health problems are linked to low income and poor diet, with the reliance on a cheap fast-food culture having detrimental affects for a significant proportion of people and contributing to the growth of obesity, especially among young people.
"I would support the Healthy Food For All Initiative's call on the Government to establish a fund for community food initiatives, such as the Fresh Food programme in Fettercairn in my own constituency."
Deputy Crowe also gave support to the call for a focussed increase in welfare payments to help address this issue.
"A 2004 report showed that up to 80 per cent of a person's welfare payments would be required to provide a healthy diet," he pointed out. "If the Government took on board the concerns of such groups as the Combat Poverty Agency and increased welfare payments, the eradication of food poverty in Ireland would become an achievable objective. We should not be in a situation where people have to choose between paying for food, for electricity or for medicine, but this is the reality for tens of thousands in Ireland today."