Caritas Malta is a not-for-profit organisation which strives to eradicate poverty and promote a decent quality of life for the most vulnerable. Ensuring an accessible, appropriate, nutritious diet is 1 of its activities.
: A study was conducted by Caritas Malta in 2019-20 to establish A Minimum Essential Budget for a Decent Living (MEBDL), covering basic necessities for low-income households. This included the amount required for food. The goals were to offer evidence for food security policy development, and to produce a tool for counselling on food budgeting and meal planning.
Study Design, Settings, Participants
Three 7-day menus were created based on the Maltese national dietary guidelines, incorporating traditional dishes, whilst taking into account contemporary lifestyles. The menus included 3 meals and 2 snacks daily and met the nutritional needs of 3 configurations of low-income households (2 adults and 2 children, 1 adult and 2 children, 2 elderly persons). Feedback on the menus was obtained from representatives of these target households during 1-to-1 or focus group interviews.
The 3 7-day menus were costed in a supermarket having moderate prices. Local, fresh, healthy ingredients were opted for as far as possible. The cost of food aid packages distributed to low-income households as part of national food security programmes was deducted from each of the 3 menu totals.
The monthly cost of the 3 menus were €593.45, €430.65 and €281.24 for the households comprising 2 adults and 2 children, 1 adult and 2 children, and 2 elderly persons, respectively. This food cost corresponded to 41% to 51% of the total MEBDL. When the cost of eating out once a month was added (simple meal or snacks) this increased the cost by €10 per person.
In low-income households, food accounts for a high share of total expenses. Nutrition educators have a key role in providing guidance to policymakers, and advice to households, on maximising nutrient density in dietary intake based on income.