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food poverty

1 in 5 parents haven't had enough food for their children, according to survey

A survey on food poverty by Barnardos showed an increase in food poverty, compared with their previous survey.

LAST UPDATE | 8 Feb 2023

A SURVEY LAUNCHED today found that one in five (19%) of parents stated that at some point in the last year they did not have enough food to feed their children.

The new survey, conducted by Coyne Research on behalf of Barnardos and partner ALDI Ireland, explores both the prevalence and impact of food poverty in Ireland

It found that more than one in seven parents (16%) said that they had been regularly unable to afford a main meal for their family.

It is the second survey on the issue, with the results finding that, between January and November last year, food poverty had worsened for children and families across the country.

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy want to investigate if the State is doing its best to stop children going to bed hungry. Support this project here.

More parents have grown worried about their ability to provide their children with sufficient food as more than one in eight (13%) said they were always worrying about it (up from 6% last January).

A further 29% of parents said they sometimes or occasionally worry about being able to provide their children with sufficient food, significantly higher than the January 2022 figure (19%).

Commenting on the survey’s results, CEO of Barnardos, Suzanne Connolly said:

“These findings align with Barnardos experience of working with vulnerable children and families in communities across Ireland. We see far too many families, often one parent families, really worried about being able to provide their children with enough food.”

“Parents tell us that they are often going without food themselves in order to provide food for their children, or else are having to rely on others to get the food for them. Their hunger, or that of their child’s, is a constant and physical reminder of the financial pressure and of the hard decisions they have to make every day.”

“This is taking an emotional and physical toll on parents across the country. We know that childhood lasts a lifetime – and hunger puts a child’s emotional, physical and overall wellbeing at risk”.

29% of parents said they had skipped meals or reduced portion sizes so that their children would have enough to eat, a significant increase from 24% in January 2022. 

One in ten parents said they had used food banks or received a food donation over the previous 12 months – more than double the number from the previous survey (4%).

Equally, an increasingly large proportion of children are living in homes where parents are relying more and more on vouchers from voluntary organisations or food packages from friends and family in order to provide their children with sufficient food.

Barnardos services has witnessed an increased need and demand for support around food over the past year, with staff reporting that more parents than ever are requesting food vouchers.   

Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for social protection Claire Kerrane described the findings as “alarming” and called for government action. 

“We are in a situation where parents aren’t eating so they can feed their children and children are going hungry,” said Kerrane. 

“This is unacceptable and in a country as rich as Ireland, it is unforgivable.

“I am calling on the Minister for Social Protection to immediately engage directly with Barnardos and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) on the findings of this survey. Both are under increasing pressure trying to support families.”

Elsewhere, Labour’s spokesperson on social protection Séan Sherlock said “it is shameful that so many people are going without food and meals in a ‘wealthy’ country”.

Sherlock added: “It is not good enough that government has failed to look to address the cost of living crisis with prices rising in food, energy, rent and essential household items.

“It just goes to show, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have no real understanding of the enormous challenges faced by so many families.”

He also called for “targeted wealth taxes to broaden the availability of funds to support those who need it most.”

Meanwhile, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the report  “shows that government budget measures haven’t gone nearly far enough”.

He added: “There is now an urgent need for the government to increase incomes, social welfare and pensions in order to keep people’s heads above water in the current cost of living and inflation crisis.”

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