In January I confessed to being too thick to understand the concept of fuel poverty as distinct from, well, poverty. If the government was going to eradicate it, surely they would give recipients money which it would be hard to ensure got spent on bags of coal. Old Age Pensioners, for example, get €9.00 / week extra as Fuel Allowance between October and March. But that just gets added to Pat the Salt's General Account. Fair enough: four pounds of butter inside might be as valuable as bales of briquettes outside: not least because he doesn't have an open fire-place!
Now the idea of Food Poverty has sailed over my horizon and I sense that this is as equally suspect as Fuel Poverty in that all poverty is fungible (= mutually interchangeable). There is no Euro in a purse that is for dinner and another that may only be spent on heating. They have at least defined their terms. You suffer Food Poverty if you are
- Unable to afford a meal with meat, or vegetarian equivalent, every second day;
- Unable to afford a weekly roast dinner (or vegetarian equivalent); and
- Missing one substantial meal in the last fortnight due to lack of money.
In 2013, Mandate and Unite, the two big trade unions, commissioned a report on Food Poverty, and summarised the data in the peculiar map below. They chose to scale the size of the labels by the absolute numbers in each of the 26 counties. Dublin's 112,300 is bigger than Leitrim's 3,400 . They must believe that the geographical location of food poverty is somehow useful or informative.
The Journal picked up the press release running the story under the same map and drew this conclusion "The map shows Dublin fares worst with 112,300 people suffering food poverty. Larger counties like Cork and Galway follow close behind, with 50,500 and 25,300 people in need of assistance respectively." That jangled my crap-detector alarm because it implies that cities have a worse problem with food poverty than small towns and rural communities. It might be true: you might have a bucolic image of peasants at least being able to have some drills of spuds, fruit in the hedgerows and snaring a rabbit or two for Sunday dinner. But I thought it called for some analysis.
112,300 while Leitrim's is3,400. Did I mention FoodCloud? I did, last December. One of our active neighbours signed up for this a couple of years ago and is the contact for the local ALIDL store. They will call her to say that they have 50 turkeys, or six boxes of tiramisu, or some really weird exotic cake which no normal Irish person would buy. She will drop by after work and load as much of the At Sell-By Date food as can fit in her Nissan Micra and then drop it all off at a couple of Traveller halting sites, a few households of indigent Romanians and the young chap with epilepsy. For people with no spare cash and probably a generous shaking of debt, this appearance of food, even peculiar food, is viewed as manna from heaven. That's a lot sounder that carrying the unsellable food out to a dumpster and locking the trap-door.