There is no doubt that food poverty exists these days and affects different people in different ways.
- For people living in areas far from towns, it may mean having no shops within easy walking distance, resulting in a large proportion of your food budget going into transportation.
- For single parents, it may mean sacrificing your food so your children have enough to eat.
- For some elderly people, it means not being able to buy fruit and vegetables because you cannot carry them home from the supermarket.
- For ethnic minority groups, it may mean adopting unhealthy eating practices because your traditional foods are unavailable.
“Food poverty refers to the inability to access nutritionally adequate diet and the related impacts on health, culture and social participation.” Friel and Conlon (2004)
In the same way that it affects people differently, it is caused by a combination of different factors, which are financial access, physical access and access to information. There is currently no established measure of food poverty in the UK but many organizations are working tirelessly to reduce food poverty.
Reducing Food Poverty
1. Food Donations
There is no denying the immense impact of donations from organizations like supermarkets, food banks, charities, community groups and churches on people experiencing food poverty in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Based on data collected by Trussell bank, more than 500,000 people in the UK rely on emergency. The number of food banks in Belfast and beyond has increased rapidly over the last few years and demand for their assistance continues to grow. Continuous support from such organizations would go a long way to reducing food poverty in Belfast.
2. Urban Farming
Almost one–quarter of malnourished people live in an urban environment. Urban farming has received massive attention over the last few years as people begin to recognize the need to gain control over their own food source. Urban farming has taken the form of both an individual and a community based response. The transformation of unattractive spaces into community gardens within Northern Ireland helps in bringing residents of communities together through shared food and tackles food poverty as well. This is especially useful in cases where there are inadequate shopping and transport facilities for people to purchase foodstuff.
3. Access to Information
It is important to emphasize that most people do not have much knowledge on healthy eating and they may be experiencing food poverty without even knowing it. It is crucial that the general public are educated on food knowledge and skills such as budgeting, shopping and cooking as well as nutrition and food labelling information. There is a wealth of food related information on the Food Standards Agency (FSA, Northern Ireland) website. In Northern Ireland, the Eatwell Guide makes healthy eating easier to understand by giving a visual representation of the types and proportions of food required for a healthy and well balanced diet.
4. Government interventions
UK Government support for initiatives committed to transforming food culture by reconnecting young people with where food comes from, and inspiring families to grow and cook food, has helped many families dealing with food poverty to transition into a state of self–dependence. It is necessary that people become self–sufficient as it allows for a certain food income, when relying on donations doesn’t always guarantee food. Solutions to food poverty can only be fully addressed through fair and sustainable welfare policies.