Crosscare not ‘selling’ food donated following Archbishop Martin appeal

It will be distributed free through community food banks

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: appealed to the public last November to donate food. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: appealed to the public last November to donate food. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

Wed, Jan 8, 2014, 01:00

Crosscare, the social support agency of Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese, has confirmed it is charging charities 50 cent per kilo for food given to it by suppliers and retail outlets.

However, it has denied a claim that food donated to it by members of the public following a pre-Christmas appeal by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was passed on to charities for 50 cent per kilo.

Crosscare’s food services manager Michael McDonagh told The Irish Times that food collected for the past 25 years from suppliers and retail outlets, and stored at its city centre city food bank on Portland Row in the north inner city, was distributed to 50 charities which paid a “shared maintenance contribution” of 50 cent per kilo of food collected.

This brought in revenue of €200,000 in 2013, he said, which was €50,000 short of the total €250,000 costs involved. The shortfall was made up by the archdiocese. He said the €200,000 was spent on transport, insurance, storage costs, and the employment of four staff, including himself, to run the Portland Row food bank. They are assisted there by 25 volunteers.

A source at one of the 50 charities involved told The Irish Times he “absolutely, [had] misgivings generally” about the 50 cent per kilo charge at the Portland Row facility. It was costing their charity thousands annually, he said.

However, he had become more irritated in recent weeks as he had been told by staff at Portland Row that the food being distributed there had come from donations in parishes following Archbishop Martin’s appeal in November.

He was further convinced this was so as, normally, food which had come from suppliers to Portland Row would be of the same brand or in the same style of packaging. But what his charity had collected there recently was of different packaging and brands, “such as some old dear had paid for and donated.”

He also said Crosscare tended to “go higher” with prices. “If they decide something is worth more, they charge more,” he said. He recalled that yogurt there “could cost up to €2.50 a tray and frozen salmon, say, €20 a box.”


Volunteer
However, Crosscare’s Mr McDonagh insisted none of the food donated from parishes was being distributed through the 50 charities. He suggested a volunteer may have been mistaken and said otherwise.

It was frequently the case at Christmas that hampers were donated to Portland Row containing loose packages of different brands of food and that retailers such as Aldi and Lidl “often do drives” that result in similar loose packs of branded food. “There are also the food bins at Spar etc. where some products may be loose,” he said.

He agreed that 48 large pots of yogurt could go for as much as €3, an indication of the weight involved, as also could be the case with “big batches of salmon”, and for the same reason. He regretted some charities may have difficulty with such rates and said “if that is so, they should get in contact and the matter will be resolved without delay.”

Mr McDonagh also said more than 70 tonnes of food donated by people in parishes was being held at Clonliffe in Drumcondra for distribution to community food banks around the archdiocese. These include banks at Blanchardstown, Tallaght and Swords, with plans for more at Dún Laoghaire and Bray.

Crosscare distributes 500 tonnes of food through its Portland Row facility annually, much of which would otherwise end up in landfill, he said.

Crosscare finances are audited annually, and its operations are “completely not for profit.”

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