Food parcels: ‘We have started seeing some families where both partners work’

Families with adult children among those receiving support from services in Co Roscommon

In recent months families where both partners work have been among those receiving food parcels at the Boyle Family Resource Centre (FRC) in Co Roscommon.

“The profile of people we see has changed,” says Emer McFadden who oversees the Food Partnership there.

While typically the families and individuals who registered for this service comprised people on low incomes or on social welfare payments, “in the last few months we have started seeing some families where both partners work,” she says.

And as well as families with small children or with teenagers, the centre is also seeing more parents whose adult children are still living at home because they cannot afford to move out. “These family units are finding it very hard to pay the bills,” the family development support worker notes.


Often a hefty electricity bill or an empty oil tank means there is nothing left in the kitty that week for food shopping.

McFadden says the chat among service users who are waiting anxiously to see what comfort the Government’s cost of living package will bring has focused on the chances of another electricity credit or a double child benefit payment.

The current cost of motor fuel is also changing lives. “Apart from the cost of getting to and from work, parents whose children are involved in the GAA are questioning whether they can actually afford to bring a child along to a match. Roscommon is a long county so they might not be able to afford to drive to some games,” she says.

Families, who once upon a time just ordered a tank full of home heating oil when they ran low, are now ringing up companies and asking if oil to the value of whatever amount they can afford, can be delivered, she says.

Volunteers and staff at the Co Roscommon family resource centre are at pains to reassure people who feel bad about receiving food parcels. “As they put it they feel bad at having to “resort” to it, but we tell them we are here for them whenever they need us, whether that’s once a week or a fortnight or monthly. It is nothing to be embarrassed about,” says McFadden.

Because the Boyle FRC is a hive of activity with plenty of reasons to visit, and because access to the Food Partnership is discreetly located and time slots are scheduled, every effort is made to make service users as comfortable as possible.

Mostly they are grateful for the comfort of a well-stocked larder. “They are so happy – they are always saying thanks for the support. And people in the community are very generous,” says McFadden. Because of that generosity the centre was able to donate turkeys to 50 families and individuals at Christmas as well as a selection of luxury items which many would not otherwise have afforded.

Some 76 people are registered to receive weekly food parcels and anyone who applies is accepted with no questions asked and no judgment.

The project is funded though an ESF (European Social Fund) scheme and also through the Food Cloud programme, whereby local supermarkets donate surplus food.

One local woman with two children under three, who avails of services provided at Boyle FRC, said that while her husband works, a lot of sacrifices have been made by the family because of price hikes over the past year.

“Electricity is a big one. Our bill jumped from €200 to €400. I try not to use the tumble dryer but then I have to use radiators to dry clothes so it’s Catch 22,” she says.

They have cut back on treats for the children and on family outings, because of the cost of petrol and of eating out. And apart from one night out over Christmas, she cannot remember when she and her husband last socialised.

What she hopes for next week is another energy credit and a child benefit boost which she would use “to buy shoes for the children and clothes, because they grow out of everything so quickly”.

Little things some people take for granted are beyond her reach. “I would never think of having coffee out when I do the shopping,” she says. “And I try to go to Aldi just once a week because of the cost of driving now.”