Food poverty affects 457,000 people across the State
‘Sometimes we eat noodles for dinner, just to make the food last longer in the week’
Jason O’Brien and Audrey Murphy, at home in Oliver Bond House, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Jason O’Brien and his partner Audrey Murphy would be “lost” without the weekly free food parcels at the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin.
“They’re great,” says O’Brien. “We go there and can get a parcel with tea bags, sugar, milk, butter, cheese, a tin of beans or soup and a sliced pan, or sometimes the roundy loafs – the soda bread – and that is fabulous.
“And you get packs of cooked chicken,” adds Murphy, “which is great for a stir-fry.”
Sitting in their flat in Oliver Bond House, just off the quays in Dublin’s city centre, the couple tell how their son Nathan (10) has gone to see a pantomime with his school.
Murphy, who has serious health issues, including a brain tumour and a cracked spine, receives a disability allowance of €188 per week, €20 a week fuel allowance, €124.80 dependent adult allowance for Mr O’Brien and €29.80 dependent child allowance for Nathan. Rent of €45.80 per week is subtracted, leaving them with €316.80.
“The gas and electricity is about €50 a week,” says O’Brien. She also takes 24 tablets a day and uses a range of morphine patches and gels. Her medical card covers most but she spends about €75 a month herself on items not covered. Murphy is due to go into hospital next month to have a brain tumour removed and has had to seek help from St Vincent de Paul to buy pyjamas.
They moved into the flat 18 months ago and borrowed from a money lender to buy a number of items including a television and furniture. They now have weekly repayments of about €110 a week.
“We have about €150 a week for everything else,” says Murphy.
“It is very stressful trying to make that last. Things come along that put the budget out, like last week I needed new glasses and they were €30.”
“Our young fella is a fussy eater. It’s hard to get him to eat vegetables, so we don’t buy them much, maybe peas or carrots. He has cereal, Rice Krispies and toast, for breakfast.”
He also gets a sandwich at lunch time in the school.
Asked about dinner, O’Brien says he makes “potatoes or chips or pasta”.
“There wouldn’t be meat every day because of the way things are. Sometimes we would eat noodles for dinner, just to make the food last longer in the week. My mother brings a dinner on Sundays so that helps too.”