Charity says 500 more families will need food support in lockdown

Barnardos says many families face mental health, drug issues and domestic violence

Children’s charity Barnardos expects more than 50 per cent more families to need food support for their children in the coming months as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

A survey of the agency’s staff at 19 centres around Ireland revealed a further 57 per cent or more than 500 additional families would need help in feeding their children.

Chief executive Suzanne Connolly said that many of the families the charity supports face a lot of challenges including poor parental mental health, problems in trying to stay on methadone treatment programmes and domestic violence.

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The charity found in a “snapshot” of 1,250 families it supports that 61 per cent faced at least one of these challenges, Ms Connolly said. A number of families need food support daily while others seek it on a weekly basis.

The surge in demand for child food supports follows earlier research by Barnardos showing 35 per cent of families with young children spent more on food between March and June as children were at home while the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

Since March the charity provided 7,250 food parcels and 9,620 hot meals to families unable to access proper meals for their children while schools and creches were closed.

A number of parents also told Barnardos that they have been eating smaller or fewer meals because they are worried their family won’t have enough food.

The charity highlighted the statistics as it announced a partnership with supermarket chain Aldi Ireland to raise €1 million over two years for vulnerable children.

Barnardos is asking Aldi customers to help vulnerable families experiencing food poverty by donating €4 by texting ‘BARNARDOS’ to 50300 or by visiting and making a donation online. The text costs €4 of which Barnardos will receive a minimum of €3.60.

Ms Connolly said the public had been “very generous and responsive and that made a big difference” as fundraising through the charity’s shops dried up.

The charity said that €4 helps it provide a hot dinner and access to specialised care for a child in their after-school club.

Director of Barnardos children’s services Siobhán Greene said that with the next stage of the pandemic “we are expecting to see further significant demands for our services from children and families who are struggling to cope”.

Aldi Ireland group managing director Niall O’Connor said: “Our partnership will deliver €1 million for the charity over two years, helping to provide 10,000 warm meals to vulnerable children at their centres and a range of other essential supports.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary reporter with The Irish Times