Addressing Food Inequalities in Donegal – A collaborative way forward

Community Healthcare Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan, Sligo

A ‘Food Equality Forum’  took place in the Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny on the 10th of May. The event was organised by Slaintecare Healthy Communities Programme and Donegal Food Response Network. The aim of the event was to share existing learning, identify models of good practice and develop a county collaborative approach to addressing food inequality in County Donegal.

The event was attended by over 90 people from various sectors; community and voluntary sector, food producers, community gardens, food banks, HSE, LA, academia and the statutory sectors. Key presentations included an overview of policy and practice, models of good practice such as social supermarkets, food hubs, and food banks.  Voices of people who are working daily in the area of food distribution called for urgent action in the area of supports stating “This is not going away, it is only going to get worse”.

Clear linkages were made between food inequality and health with families at risk of food poverty suffering a disproportionate amount of ill health.

Attention was placed on the need to address the root causes of food inequality with the need to ensure ‘wrap around’ support models with clearly identified ‘ referral pathways ‘ where people are supported to break the cycle of food poverty. Access, affordability and availability of healthy food were identified as key challenges within rural areas as was the ever constant call to address transport issues, address food waste, and ensure a comprehensive approach centered on human rights, social and ecological justice, and a call for agencies to work together for population and planetary health.

AnnMarie Crosse Slaintecare Healthy Communities said, “Food Inequalities are unfair and unjust but avoidable – we need to address the root causes, this requires a multi-faceted approach, involving food producers, retailers, emergency response, community development initiatives, state sectors and policymakers. Today was the first step in Donegal to bring this collaboration together”. 

Mary Coyle, Ionad Naomh Padraig said, “The collaborative approach works and it shows that finding solutions together will ensure that we get to the heart of the problem in our communities”. 

Patricia Lee, Inishowen Development Partnership added “Access to affordable nutritious food is a human right - let’s make sure that every child in this county sits down to a healthy meal everyday”.

Margaret Larkin, Donegal Local Development Company noted, "Food poverty is a pressing and ever-growing issue in our county and one that the 17 community and voluntary groups that make up DLDC Donegal Food Response Network are dealing with on a daily basis”.

This was a timely event with food inflation currently running at 16.6%. A call was made to ensure that policy makers and food retailers listened to the voices on the ground, supported community based approaches but also developed forward thinking effective joined up social, environmental, and economic policies.

Last updated on: 12 / 05 / 2023