Around 9% of the population suffered from food poverty in 2021, according to a report from the Food Poverty Working Group of the Department of Social Protection.

This is a decrease on the figure for 2020 – the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic – when 12% of the population was in this position.

The figure for 2021 – exactly 8.9% – is a fairly typical figure for recent years.

Since 2014, the highest annual rate recorded has been 13.1% (in 2014), while the lowest has been 7% (2018).

The annual rate for each year since 2014 is set out below:

YearFood poverty rate

Although there is no official indicator of this type of poverty in Ireland, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) developed a measure in 2012 which defined food poverty as the inability to have an adequate and nutritious diet due to issues of affordability or accessibility.

Using this approach, food poverty is measured by the percentage of individuals experiencing one or more of the following:

  • Unable to afford a meal with meat every second day (this indicator suggests severe food deprivation);
  • Unable to afford a weekly roast dinner (while reference to a roast dinner may be outdated, the measure refers to affordability rather than food choice);
  • Missing one substantial meal in the last fortnight due to lack of money (this measure refers to severe food deprivation and, unlike the first two – where data is collected at a household level – this measure refers to persons aged over 16 years).

The report published today (Monday, July 18) is the outcome of a high-level mapping exercise undertaken by the working group that is intended to outline the programmes and schemes put in place by the government to address the problem.

These schemes fall into two categories: Measures to address food poverty directly; and wider schemes in which the problem is one of a number of issues addressed.

In 2021, funding through direct measures amounted to just over €89 million. For wider schemes that included food poverty measures, expenditure was almost €400 million.

The working group was set up as part of the Roadmap for Social Inclusion, which was published in January 2020 and aims to reduce the annual rate of food poverty to 2% or less by 2025.