Food Standards Agency
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NI report reveals the weekly cost of a healthy family diet

A study has revealed some families need to spend up to £153 a week to eat a healthy balanced diet, almost half of their budget if on a low income or social welfare. That’s the cost of a healthy food basket for a family made up of two parents, a teenager and a child in primary school.

The study also revealed the cost of a healthy food basket for different households: a two parent, two children household needs to spend £115.00;  a one parent, two children family needs to spend £99; and for a pensioner living alone the cost of a healthy shop is £57.05.

Sharon Gilmore, Head of Standards and Dietary Health at the Food Standards Agency in NI explained the study confirms that food is regarded as the most flexible component of a household budget.

“The report highlights the stark reality that low income households here need to spend up to 44% of their weekly take home income in order to purchase a minimum acceptable standard of food, while also meeting their nutrition and social needs. 

“Food poverty is complex. It affects those living on low incomes, with limited access to transport and poor cooking skills while many people in the same situation continue to have a healthy diet in spite of these obstacles.

“In trying to make a limited household budget go further by compromising on healthy foods, some households are ending up nutritionally poor.”

The findings are from Northern Ireland’s survey on the Cost of a Healthy Food Basket carried out by safefood, the Food Standards Agency in NI and the Consumer Council for NI. 

The consumer-led research finds out the cost of a healthy food basket for four of the most common household types in Northern Ireland.

It reveals the challenges facing low‑income families to balance the cost of a minimum nutritious diet while meeting other weekly household expenses.

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

“Families on a low-income tend to eat less well, have poorer health outcomes with higher levels of obesity. In general, cheaper foods and takeaways are simply less nutritious. This presents a real challenge for parents when it comes to food shopping and planning for the week.”

Philippa McKeown-Brown, Head of Consumer Skills at the Consumer Council said:

“This second piece of research is welcome evidence showing the true cost of a basic but healthy food basket in Northern Ireland.  Food prices may have fallen since the first food basket report, however low income consumers continue to struggle to afford a healthy, balanced diet. The Consumer Council will continue to work closely with Food Standards Agency in NI, Safefood and the All - Island Food Poverty Network to help inform the debate and actions needed to tackle food poverty here.”

The findings also show the cost depends on the age and number of people in the household. In particular, the cost of providing food for an adolescent is similar to that for an adult.

The survey asked consumers to select an acceptable food basket in terms of taste and menu choices, while also meeting the social needs of a household, such as hosting visitors or special occasions.

The food baskets were reviewed by nutritionists from Ulster University to make sure they met the nutritional guidelines of The Eatwell Guide and price-checked accordingly. 

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