Archbishop appeals for food to alleviate hunger in Dublin

Some children ‘so hungry they can’t learn’ as demand for wholesome food not being met

 Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at the Crosscare food bank this morning talking with foodbank manager Valerie Cummins. Photograph: John Mc Elroy.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at the Crosscare food bank this morning talking with foodbank manager Valerie Cummins. Photograph: John Mc Elroy.

Thu, Nov 14, 2013, 15:31

There are children in Dublin schools so hungry they cannot learn while some university students “don’t have decent nourishment” either, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.

It was “not exaggeration to say... the demand of people for simple wholesome food for themselves and their children is not being met” in Dublin, he said. He was “talking about large numbers of people”.

“Despite our current economic situation Ireland is still a very wealthy country and one of the temptations of the wealthy is not to see the extent of the poverty that’s there. It’s not bad will, it’s a sort of a natural mechanism that’s in people,” he said.

Archbishop Martin was speaking in Dublin’s Pro Catherdal at a Mass marking the feast of St Laurence O’Toole, where he launched his first appeal for food since becoming Archbishop of Dublin in 2004.

He appealed for non-perishable foods such as pasta, rice, fruit juice, tea,coffee, soup, sugar, powdered milk, tinned meat or fish, tinned vegetables or fruit, packaged desserts, biscuits, and hygiene products to be donated to collection points in each of the archdiocese’s 199 parishes over coming weeks. These will be collected and distributed by Crosscare every Monday and Tuesday

He also appealed to businesses “which have disposable food to join in this”.

Later a Crosscare spokeswoman told The Irish Times it received food from Tesco and Lidl, while Supervalu was “coming on board”. However they received “nothing” from Dunnes Stores, who had told them food donation “was not their policy”, she said.

This Diocesan-Crosscare Food Appeal will continue through Advent until Christmas at least. Crosscare is the social care agency of the Dublin archdiocese and supplies food directly to people in the greater Dublin area who need it, as well as through 10 charities including the Vincent de Paul.

At the Mass this morning Archbishop Martin said for the past number of months the Crosscare Food Bank “has not been able to keep up with demand for food from people in need all over Dublin. Last year, they gave out 500 tonnes of food. So far this year they have needed 750 tonnes.”

Speaking to media afterwards about children going to school hungry he said “I hear this all over the place, children up to university students. Some people would say that the level of nutrition of some children is so low that it’s effecting their ability to learn.”

He continued “we hope as we exit this period that things will change but it’s very harsh and it won’t change overnight. New burdens are on people with children. I know from the area of sick children as well. Let’s hope that this time next year it’s different but we have to respond today to this.”

About students he said “the university chaplains tell me that they have young people coming from fairly wealthy background (who) just don’t have a decent nourishment.”

Involved were “families that this time last year would not have been in this position. There’s a great precariousness there and nobody would expect to drop into that situation. That is a reality.”

On a visit to Crosscare this morning he was told “they could open two or three new centres tomorrow” and “not necessarily in expected parts of the city” but that “they just can’t do it because the food isn’t there”.

“Down there this morning the shelves are empty. There’s a large freezer room which would normally be stocked up and that’s not happening… it’s so sad when we waste so much food.”

“One of the things that is very, very dear to Pope Francis, he detests waste. I’m told for example that if he were at a table with a group and there was food left over, he’d get up and bring it to another table because he knew otherwise it would be thrown out.”