Tackling childhood food poverty under the spotlight at all-island conference

safefood brings European experts together to tackle childhood food poverty inequalities

Thursday 30 November, 2006. safefood is today bringing experts together from across Europe to an all-island conference entitled ‘Tackling Childhood Food Poverty – Practical approaches to food poverty in childhood’. The conference in conjunction with the Healthy Food for All Initiative will showcase examples of good practice and, look at potential solutions to addressing current challenges in the school setting, in the home, in the community and among minority groups in relation to preschool and school-going age children. 

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director of Public Health, safefood, commented “Food and poverty are intrinsically linked. We know that families on low incomes have low consumption levels of fresh fruit and vegetables and tend to consume more foods which are high in fat, salt and sugar. This puts them at risk of having a poor diet, with children being most vulnerable. However, parents are not to blame as diets are strongly influenced by people’s social and environmental circumstances and low income is a major factor in this mix. We are committed to fostering a better understanding of healthy eating across the island of Ireland and initiatives which tackle this issue head on.”

She continued, “Attitudes to food and healthy eating habits must begin early in life, which is why safefood targets children with initiatives and interventions from an early age. We know that parents play a key role in their children’s diet. It is important that they are supported through community initiatives that promote availability and access to healthy and affordable food. Gradually increasing the intake of fresh food and vegetables in place of highly processed foods is recommended as an important step towards achieving that balance.” 

The conference is being chaired by broadcaster Dr John Bowman, with the opening address given by Ms Emily Logan, Ombudsman for Children. Key issues will be addressed during the conference including food poverty in the school and home setting, community support to help overcome food poverty and also food poverty among children belonging to minority groups. Keynotes speakers will look at challenging food poverty and ways to support parents to rebalance children’s eating habits.

The Healthy Food for All Initiative is a response to the growing awareness of food poverty as a structural constraint on food consumption and dietary intake among low-income groups, and its multi-faceted consequences for health, education and social participation, as outlined in the research report Food Poverty and Policy, published Combat Poverty, Crosscare and the Society of St Vincent de Paul in 2004.

Ends

For more information

Andrew Hyland or Niamh Burdett   
WHPR       
Tel: 01 6690030      
087 908 8322 (Andrew)
086 608 6764 (Niamh)

Fiona Gilligan
safefood
Tel: 01 4480600

For more information on the Healthy Food for All Initiative:
Sinéad Keenan, Project Co-ordinator
Tel: 01 8360011

Editors Notes

Food Poverty

Food poverty can de defined as the inability to access a nutritionally adequate diet and the related impacts on health, culture and social participation.

  • Food poverty is not just about the consumption of too little food to meet basic nutritional requirements. It includes social and cultural contexts where people cannot eat, shop for, provide or exchange food in the manner that is the acceptable norm in society.
  • Living in poverty and social disadvantage imposes constraints on food consumption in three main ways:
    1. It affects food affordability through the choice and quantity of food than can be bought and the share of the household budget that is allocated to food
    2. It impacts on access to food through the retail options available and the capacity to shop in terms of transport and physical ability. The availability of storage and cooking facilities is a further constraint on what foods can be accessed
    3. Psychosocial factors determine food choice among socially disadvantaged groups. Personal skills and knowledge, social pressure and cultural norms interact with structural and economic constraints to produce a complex constellation of factors contributing to food poverty 
  • Further information on the extent of food poverty in Ireland and existing policy responses is contained in the research report Food Poverty and Policy, published in 2004 by Combat Poverty, Crosscare and Society of St Vincent de Paul. The report identifies three main policy dimensions to food poverty, each of which is discussed below:
    • Food, nutrition and health
    • Food affordability and welfare adequacy
    • Food availability and access