Low-income households must spend as much as half of their weekly revenue to have the ability to afford a wholesome basket of groceries | UTV

Low-income families in Northern Ireland now have to spend almost half (46%) of their weekly income to get a healthy basket of food that meets basic nutritional needs, new research shows.

Research by Safefood and the Food Standards Agency in NI has highlighted the challenges low-income families in Northern Ireland face in balancing the cost of a healthy, nutritious diet with other major household expenses.

Typically, low-income households have less good diets, which can lead to higher levels of obesity and its health complications such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The study found that food costs for a low-income household with an older child were highest after elementary school and about a third more than a similar household with younger children.

It was also found that performance households spend up to 14% more of their income on food than households in which an adult was employed.

The cost of a healthy and balanced diet for a family of four living on welfare with two adults and two children in primary and secondary schools is £ 162 per week (46% of their household income).

A healthy basket of groceries for a minimum wage single parent with two children in preschool and elementary school would cost £ 105 per week (25% of household income).

For a retiree living alone, it would cost £ 61 a week to eat a healthy and balanced diet (32% of household income).

Joana Da Silva, Chief Specialist in Nutrition at safefood, introduces the report: “Managing a tight budget means families with children, single parents and retirees have to make strong decisions about how to spend their money.

“Grocery spending is the flexible element of the household budget.”

People often stock up on cheap food that is low in nutrients when prioritizing other bills that need to be paid

Joana da Silva

Fionnuala Close, Head of Food and Health Policy for the FSA Northern Ireland continued:

“While many families across Northern Ireland can enjoy healthy eating, other low-income households have difficulty paying limited budgets and tend to eat less well, which can lead to health inequalities.

“The 2020 Food Basket Research builds on an evidence base that will help shape Northern Ireland policies to meet the food needs of the most vulnerable in our society.”


of the population of Northern Ireland lived in relative poverty in 2019-20.

Food poverty is an issue that encompasses both lack of access to nutritionally adequate nutrition and its effects on health, as well as the ability to participate in society through food.

A Ballyclare parent faced with the reality of keeping their family on a tight budget shared their experience in a consumer council film, Hand to Mouth: Access to Healthy, Affordable Eating on Low Income, to the To highlight issues he is facing in some low income families across Northern Ireland.

Craig, a father of two from Ballyclare, said, “When my partner lost her job it was a bit daunting and I felt like I had no support. The whole thing was a complete disaster.

“We had to dismantle and make changes. Some days, I relied on family members and brought my children to their home for dinner.

“The past year has been so tough, mainly because of the cold weather and the need to buy oil just after Christmas. But I got help from a board that actually delivered food to me at home. ”

Philippa McKeown-Brown, Head of Food Policy at the Consumer Council, added: “The Consumer Council was keen to produce a short film ‘Hand to Mouth’ to accompany research on the Minimum Essential Grocery Basket, which examines the difficulties people face in accessing it to a healthy, affordable and enjoyable diet on a limited budget.

“In the film, we hear about parents experiencing a loss of income due to the coronavirus pandemic and the added burden of feeding their children around the clock while schools are closed.

“With the summer holidays just around the corner, many families will again worry that the food will continue.”

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