UCC-led project to address food inequality in Europe

13 Jun 2024

Dr Janas Harrington of UCC. Image: Trevor Carey

Project lead Dr Janas Harrington said that ‘a significant proportion’ of Irish and European citizens are living daily with food insecurity and food poverty.

An Irish-led initiative launched today (13 June) will look at the causes behind increasing dietary and health inequalities across Europe.

The Foodpath project led by Dr Janas Harrington of University College Cork (UCC) will bring together researchers from across Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and Turkey to analyse the societal, commercial and political factors that influence our food behaviours.

Using this data, the researchers will identify solutions to promote food environments that allow equal access to healthier food for all in society. The idea is to “break the cycle” that maintains dietary inequalities in Europe across different socioeconomic groups.

“Access to healthy and nutritious food is a basic human right,” said Harrington, project lead and an academic based in the School of Public Health at UCC. “However a significant proportion of Irish and European citizens are living daily with food insecurity and food poverty.”

Poor nutrition, according to Harrington, has adverse impacts on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of people – and making the necessary changes to improve dietary behaviour is “not easy”.

Socioeconomic inequalities in diet and health have widened, according to the team – a trend that is linked to “detrimental” changes in the food environment and the context in which people interact with the food system to make their dietary choices.

“In Foodpath, we will explore the wider food environment to understand what is driving food behaviours and to propose solutions to change the food environment to provide equal opportunities for all citizens to access safe, affordable and nutritious food,” Harrington added.

The project is funded by the Health Research Board in Ireland, under the umbrella of the Partnership Fostering a European Research Area for Health. This EU-funded partnership brings together 33 partners and 27 funding organisations from 22 countries to foster research aimed at addressing public health needs.

Just yesterday, a project aimed at improving agricultural diversity in Europe and addressing food security challenges was awarded the EU Prize for Citizen Science. Started by Kerstin Neumann of Germany and Roberto Papa of Italy, the project aims to develop tools that can help conserve and improve agricultural biodiversity in Europe – specifically focusing on legumes.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic