The All-island Food Poverty Network: Tackling Food Poverty Together on the Island of Ireland

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The All-island Food Poverty Network: Tackling Food Poverty Together on the Island of Ireland

05 Dec 2023
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The All-island Food Poverty Network’s mission is to address food poverty on the island of Ireland. This article examines the role of Safefood and the All-island Food Poverty Network, exploring their objectives, structure, and recent initiatives aimed at reducing food poverty. 

Safefood, in partnership with The Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland, co-chairs the All-island Food Poverty Network. The network serves as a community of professionals spanning government departments, agencies, academia, and non-governmental and community organizations, united by the common goal of alleviating food poverty. 

The Good Friday Agreement/Belfast Agreement, is recognised for its importance in bringing an end to the conflict in Northern Ireland. What may be less familiar is the inclusion of a key element within the agreement, namely, the establishment of cross-border institutions aimed at fostering cooperation and interaction between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. 

Safefood is one of those cross-border bodies set up to focus on promoting food safety and healthy eating on the island of Ireland. It aims to enhance public health by addressing issues related to food safety, nutrition, and consumer awareness. Some examples include:  

  • Promoting food safety by helping to educate professionals and the public on safe food handling practices and food allergies, 
  • Promoting healthy eating habits, 
  • Sharing information to help individuals make informed choices about their diet, and  
  • Engaging in campaigns and initiatives to raise awareness about good nutrition. 

Cross-Border Collaboration 

Safefood operates collaboratively between the relevant authorities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. By enabling these organisations to work together, the agency addresses common concerns and makes sure these are conveyed to the public across the island. Safefood exemplifies the cooperative approach envisioned by the GFA/Belfast agreement by addressing shared challenges and promoting the well-being of communities on both sides of the border. 

Food poverty poses a critical challenge on the island of Ireland, impacting the well-being of a significant portion of its population. Factors such as economic disparities, rising living costs, and social inequality contribute to a situation where many individuals and families struggle to afford nutritious and adequate meals. This issue not only affects physical health but also has implications for mental well-being and societal cohesion. Addressing food poverty is crucial for building a more equitable and resilient community, as it directly intersects with issues of social justice, health, and overall quality of life for individuals across the island. 

The primary goal of the All-island Food Poverty Network is to foster consensus on key issues related to food poverty while promoting collaboration and shared learning among its diverse membership. Professionals from various sectors, including government, academia, and NGOs, are encouraged to join the network.  

Each year, the Network hosts an event dealing with a topic related to food poverty on the island. The most recent event in September 2023, “Food poverty; learning from lived experiences,” addressed the complexities of the issue of food poverty. By gaining a deeper understanding of these experiences, the goal was to shed light on the realities of food poverty and explore how such insights could enhance the effectiveness of policies and interventions.  

The program featured expert speakers, including Stephen Moffatt from Barnardos discussing the cost-of-living crisis and food insecurity in disadvantaged communities, Jonny Currie from The Trussell Trust highlighting recent research on ‘Hunger in Northern Ireland,’ and Dr Clare Pettinger from the University of Plymouth sharing insights from the FoodSEqual Project. Megan Weimann from Northdown Communityworks concluded the program by presenting ‘Well Fed – real life in a community supermarket.’ Each speaker provided insights into the challenges and potential solutions surrounding food poverty, offering diverse perspectives to inform policy and interventions. The event also provided a platform for diverse perspectives and valuable discussions on addressing food poverty. The event was closed by Robert Thornton from the Vincentian MESL Research Centre at SVP.  

Through collaboration, shared learning, and strategic approaches, the network continues to make strides in reducing food poverty and offering hope for a more sustainable and equitable future for all residents of the island. 

Learn More  

Presentations from the conference are available on the Safefood website:  

Recordings from previous network events on the safefood YouTube channel, including: 

Newsletter and Information Dissemination: 

The All-island Food Poverty Network keeps its members informed through a biannual newsletter, sharing the latest in food poverty research, programs, and initiatives nationally and internationally. Subscribers receive early notifications about the network’s annual events, providing a comprehensive overview of ongoing efforts and progress.  

Jonny Currie of The Trussell Trust also spoke at the iCommunity and Leadership Academy Breakfast Club. You can watch the recording here.   

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