True cost of a healthy food basket revealed (ROI)

24 June, 2015. Low income households need to spend at least one quarter (¼) of their take home income to purchase a basket of food that would be both acceptable and healthy according to research¹ published today by safefood. The research found the weekly cost of a healthy food basket ranged from €66 for a single pensioner to €165 for a family of two adults and two children, with households in rural areas facing bigger food costs compared with urban households.

The research which was led by consumers themselves, gives an actual cost on a healthy food basket for six types of Irish households² in both an urban and rural location. Given that many household costs such as rent are fixed, food is often regarded as the flexible spend in a household budget and the last item that needs to be paid for, leading to those living on low incomes at particular risk of a poor diet.

Dr Bernadette MacMahon, Director of the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice who conducted the Food Basket survey commented “Without a minimum adequate income, having a nutritious and healthy diet is an ongoing struggle for many low income households in Ireland today. Food poverty is the inevitable consequence for a large proportion of these households.”

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood continued

Food poverty can have both short and long-term health effects on children and adults. Families living on stretched budgets eat less well and on a day-to-day basis can have poorer energy levels. Longer-term, the consequences can be a shorter life expectancy and higher rates of diet-related chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain cancers. In trying to make a limited household budget go further, people often fill up on high-calorie foods so are ending up nutritionally poor.” 

The research was led by focus groups representing the household types who developed the weekly food basket and came up with menus for each day of the week. The weekly food basket was also based on current nutritional guidelines for all members of that household and that was acceptable to them.

“What is very worrying is that we know from the most recent data³ that when looking at those at risk of poverty, the average household is in reality only spending less than 20% of their income on food”, added Dr MacMahon. “As well as adequate income to meet what are basic human nutrition needs, many people also need support with life-skills like budgeting, planning and other food skills”.

The report “The Cost of a Healthy Food Basket” is available to download now.

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For more information or to request an interview, please contact

safefoodDermot Moriarty 086 381 1034 / Julie Carroll 086 601 6005 or press@safefood.eu

References

¹MacMahon, B and Weld, G (2015). The cost of a minimum essential food basket in the Republic of Ireland. Study for six household types. Safefood Dublin.

² The household types for the survey were

  • Two parent & two children (3 & 10y)
  • Two parent & two children (10 & 15y)
  • One parent & two children (3 & 10y)
  • Single adult, Male, working age, living alone
  • Pensioner couple
  • Female pensioner living alone

³Household Budget Survey (2009-10); Central Statistics Office

Editor’s notes

Food basket costs per household as a proportion (%) of household income

Location

Urban

Rural

Urban

Rural

Household Type

Social Welfare

Minimum Wage

Two parent & two children (3 & 10)

29

32

23

25

Two parent & two children (10 & 15)

34

38

27

30

One parent & two children (3 & 10)

30

33

16

17

Single adult, Male, working age, living alone

30

28

18

17

Household Type

Non-contributory pension

Contributory pension (& qualified adult payment)

Pensioner couple

18

19

18

19

Female pensioner living alone

23

25

25

26

Total food basket cost per household in 2014 (total (€) and as a proportion of core expenditure)

Location

Urban

Rural

Urban

Rural

Household Type

Total Cost €

% Core Expenditure

Two parent & two children (3 & 10)

125

138

26

25

Two parent & two children (10 & 15)

150

165

26

27

One parent & two children (3 & 10)

96

105

26

24

Single adult, Male, working age, living alone

57

53

23

18

Pensioner couple

82

89

25

22

Female pensioner living alone

63

66

25

20

About the research

Since 2006, the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice has conducted studies to establish the cost of a minimum essential standard of living for six household types with two income scenarios:

(1)Dependent on social welfare and

(2)Working and earning the national minimum wage

Both include income generated from entitlements and details of the methodology can be found at Minimum Essential Budget for Ireland.