New research shows that 10% of people in Ireland are living in food poverty.
Among those most at risk are people living on low incomes, families with young children and lone parents.
Families with three or more children aged under 18 were most likely to be affected.
The study was commissioned by the Department of Social Protection.
There has been no set definition or measure of food poverty in Ireland until now and the report's authors said debate on the issue has been restricted as a result.
They have designed a measure that takes three key "deprivation factors" into account:
- Not being able to afford a meal with meat, or a vegetarian equivalent, every second day.
- Not being able to afford a weekly roast dinner.
- Missing a meal over a two-week period, due to a lack of money.
The research shows that in 2010, 10% of people questioned for a CSO Survey on Income and Living Conditions experienced at least one of these factors.
Food poverty trends will now be monitored on an annual basis.
It is hoped the findings will help identity those most at risk and assist policymakers in addressing the problem.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, research associate at the department Caroline Carney said the long-term impacts could include increased chronic diseases related to nutrition, type two diabetes and obesity.
The study looked at food poverty from 2004 to 2010. Figures are not yet available for 2011 and 2012.
Ms Carney said the research is intended to provide a quantitative measure of food poverty in Ireland, which can then be used by policymakers.