Low-income households in Northern Ireland are spending almost half (46%) of their weekly income on providing a basic healthy diet, new research has shown.
He studies safe eating and here the Food Standards Agency highlights the struggles families are facing to balance the cost of a healthy diet with other household expenses.
The tendency to eat less in low-income families is said to contribute to overweight and cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The highest costs apply to low-income families with older children after primary age, which cost about a third more than similar families with younger children.
Profit-dependent households also spent 14% more on food where an adult was employed.
For a family of four living on benefits with two adults and children in primary and secondary school, the cost of eating a healthy balanced diet was £162 a week, which is 46% of their household income.
For a single parent living on minimum wage with two young children, a healthy food basket would cost £105 per week, 25% of their household income.
A pensioner living alone would spend £61 a week eating a healthy diet – almost a third of their income (32%).
The father of two of Ballyclair’s children, only Craig, shared his experiences providing food for his family on a tight budget as part of a film for the Consumer Council.
“When my partner lost his job, it was a little tough, and I felt like I had no back up,” he said.
“The whole thing was a complete disaster. We had to cut down and make changes. Some days I had to depend on family members and bring my kids to their house for dinner. Last year was particularly cold weather. It was very tough to buy oil along and right after Christmas. But I got help from a food bank, they actually delivered food to my house.”
Joanna da Silva, chief expert in nutrition at SafeFood, said: “Management on a tight budget means that families with children, single parents and pensioners will have to make tough choices in how they spend their money.
“Food spending is a flexible element of the household budget and people often fill up on cheap food that is nutritionally poor, prioritizing other bills to be paid.”
FSA Northern Ireland Diet Health Policy lead, Fionuala Close, said: “While many families in Northern Ireland can enjoy a healthy diet, other families on low incomes struggle to make up for a limited budget and move on to less well-being. eat in kind, which can lead to health inequalities.”
Data from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency showed that from 2019-20, around 13% of the six (17%) of Northern Ireland’s population were in relative poverty with absolute poverty.
Philip McCown-Brown, head of food policy at The Consumer Council, said many parents were struggling to provide extra food as children go to school, along with the loss of income during the pandemic.
She continued: “With the summer school holidays approaching, a lot of families will be worried about moving food again.”
Consumer Council’s film Hand to Mouth: Access to healthy, affordable food on low incomes Available to watch at: www.consumercouncil.org.uk/foodpoverty
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of knews.uk and knews.uk does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.