Food Poverty

Food banks fulfil a vital role as they help to support people who find themselves or their families without food. Over the last few years particularly as a result of the economic downturn there has been a rapid growth of food banks providing emergency help and assistance to people across Northern Ireland. In order to help understand the rise in reliance of people on emergency food Advice NI has carried out research.

Main talking points

Advice NI is keen to highlight the growing phenomenon of food banks in Northern Ireland. Advice NI believes that although food banks are providing an often crucial source of help to those in immediate need, the increasing reliance on the charitable and voluntary sector to provide food is a cause of significant concern. Advice NI believes the below discussion points (taken from the Advice NI policy paper on the issue) are crucial in moving forward on the issue:

  • There should be quantitative and qualitative longitudinal research conducted to ascertain why people in Northern Ireland find themselves without sufficient food to feed themselves or their children; 
  • There should be a co-ordinated effort made to ‘join-up’ voluntary sector services and statutory services with the food bank services to ensure that people who find themselves in immediate need of food have access to all other help they need to improve their situation;
  • Systemic issues that may contribute towards food poverty should be identified and addressed or mitigated (for example delays in the processing of social security benefits & tax credits, income adequacy for those on benefits and in low paid work); 
  • Given the expected disproportionate impact of welfare reform in Northern Ireland, Advice NI believes that the NI Assembly should introduce a clause into the Welfare Reform Bill to place on a statutory footing the ‘right to independent advice’ for those who will be affected by the proposed changes; 
  • There should be a consensus to address the root causes of food poverty, with a clear goal to ultimately reduce the numbers of people who find themselves in the position of having to turn to food banks for help; thereby ensuring that the food bank phenomenon is not institutionalised across Northern Ireland;

Food Poverty Stories

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