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Quarter of parents worry whether they can provide food for their family - Barnardos report

Parents who are concerned about food described themselves as feeling “stressed”, “worried about the future”, and “guilty”.

ONE QUARTER OF parents often worry about not being able to provide food for their children, according to a new report examining child food poverty.

Almost 20% of those looking after children said they have skipped meals themselves or reduced portion size, so their family and children have enough to eat, increasing to 40% of those not working, according to a survey of 1,100 adults by charity Barnardos.

In the study, parents who are concerned about food described themselves as feeling “stressed” (36%), “worried about the future” (33%), and “guilty” (30%), about their current situation.

The research comes as Barnardos hosts a forum on child food poverty today, in collaboration with Aldi Ireland.

Nearly three in 10 people in Ireland have witnessed child food poverty first-hand, according to the new research, conducted by Amárach Research, which explores both the prevalence and impact of food poverty in Ireland on vulnerable children and families.

The study found that 9% of parents feel “close” to food poverty, and outlines how families are particularly affected by this issue, with 10% of parents and those looking after children skipping meals in an average week in order to feed the children in their care.

Barnardos said the “harsh impact” of food poverty on families and children was evident in the study’s findings.

It pointed to 51% of parents stating they have cut down spending in other areas such as household and medical bills, loan repayments, and transport so they can afford food.

This rose to nearly two-thirds (62%) among those not working, including homemakers.

The emotional impact this experience has on parents is significant with one quarter (25%) often worried about not being able to provide food for children in their care, again increasing to 34% of those not working.

Of the one quarter who worry, the biggest impact on their concerns about providing food was rising costs and pressure on household finances (81% of parents who worry).

Three in four (74%) of those who witnessed child food poverty first-hand noticed an impact on the child’s physical development, while a similarly high number saw how it affected their social and emotional development (70%).

Food poverty also affected the child’s education (65%) and ability to maintain relationships (44%).

Commenting on the launch of the research, Suzanne Connolly, CEO Barnardos said: “We see far too many families, often one parent families, deprived of access to fundamental life essentials such as food and heat. 

“Parents tell us of the very difficult decisions they are forced to make to keep their family fed, by either going without a meal themselves, or needing to turn off their heating in order buy food – with one respondent saying they feel like a failure.

“We know that a child who is hungry, cannot concentrate which is why food is such a key part of many of Barnardos services – from providing meals to children daily, and providing families with food parcels to take home.”

Barnardos said it has partnered with Aldi Ireland as it “allows us to support families where access to food and the impact that has on a family, is a very real problem”.

Niall O’Connor, Group Managing Director of Aldi Ireland said that with “two thirds of people spending up to half of their income on food costs”, he views the company’s role in keeping prices low and affordable.

“The top priority for most families this year will be managing their household budgets in the face of rising living costs,” he added. 

“The work Barnardos does to support vulnerable families and children very much reflects Aldi’s values and we are fully committed to raising €1 million for the charity, helping to provide 10,000 warm meals to vulnerable children at their centres and a range of other essential supports.”

The supermarket has raised over €450,000 for Barnardos to date through a series of initiatives including the launch of a cookbook, with all profits going towards Barnardos’ Early Years and Family Support Services. 

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