Penny Dinners notes increase in families being fed
Cork Penny Dinners have seen a marked increase in families coming in to be fed, due to rising costs of bills.
Following a report by children’s charity Barnardos that parents are increasingly cutting back on food bills in order to pay other expenses, such as school expenses, the Cork charity has confirmed that more and more families have begun coming in to avail of the services on offer.
“Two and half years ago we were serving 25 meals a week to only men,” said Katriona Twomey, a trustee with Cork Penny Dinners.
“Now we see families with babies and children coming in. We taken extra special care to ensure that they are always fed and don’t go home hungry.”
Katriona spoke also of the worry and fear that such an act can cause people, acknowledging that the charity is often the last port of call for people.
“It’s very sad to see. Often families with older children will stay at home because of the embarrassment associated but always ensure that we give them take away meals to bring home. It’s important that no-one goes hungry.”
Katriona however, praised those who come in as a sign that they are willing to take help and not let their children go hungry. She also called on the Government to go back to the drawing board, while acknowledging money is associated with everything today.
“We need to develop a new strategy in consultation with those on the front line. Everyone needs to have input. It’s no good giving someone a take home meal to heat up if they have no electricity. The important thing is that no-one should ever go hungry in this country."
Cork Penny Dinners serves on average 1,200 meals a week now thanks to the generosity of the Cork public and their donations and the volunteers on Little Hanover Street.
“They don’t really say anything, they just come in with their children,” said volunteer Samantha Healy from Fermoy.
"I’ve seen quite a few families come in with children. They’re just grateful to get some food, a bit of soup and a sandwich to take away if they’re struggling, they just want the children to be fed.”
The Barnardos survey found that on average parents are paying €355 for a child in senior infants, €390 for children in fourth class in primary school and €770 for children going into first year in secondary school.
“This year, the parents who responded to our survey are also showing real fear and concern at how they are going to make sure their children have what they need to get an education,” said Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay.
“Many parents are being forced to make very difficult choices and many are getting into debt to pay for uniforms, books and other education expenses. Concrete solutions for tackling the costs associated with sending children to school are long overdue.”
The charity called on the Government to copy systems in Northern Ireland and Scotland where schools would provide textbooks within their current grants from the Department of Education. Other options within a five year plan by Barnardos include the school purchasing core textbooks like English and Maths leaving the rest of the booklist to the parents.