Green Party Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs, Patrick Costello TD, has called for increased action and innovation to tackle the sharp rise in food poverty in households with children as a result of Covid-19. Deputy Costello was speaking following the publication of a report by National Forum of Family Resource Centres (FRCs), drawing on survey results from the 121 such centres across the State.
Deputy Costello commented,
“The latest report by the National Forum of Family Resource Centres is a damming indictment of the rise in poverty in our communities, with 69% of FRCs reporting an increase in need for food parcels. One FRC cited a shocking 600% increase in demand for meals and is providing 175 meals a day to homes in its area. This comes on top of the revelation that FoodCloud, the largest food charity in the State, saw the demand for free food more than double last month compared to the same period last year.
“Covid-19 has ripped through our communities and many areas that were considered disadvantaged pre-Covid are now entering into complete depression. At least one in ten households with children in Ireland experience food poverty, with that figure now dramatically on the rise. The sad reality is that in too many homes, children are going to bed hungry without access to a hot, nutritious meal that day. This should not be the case in this day and age and cannot be allowed to continue.
“Food banks are increasingly viewed as the go-to solution to food poverty but they are only a sticking plaster for a much greater issue. Poor nutrition in children is linked to reduced development, cognitive function, impaired concentration, and increased illness, amongst many other issues. Charities are struggling to deal with the increase in demand for food donations and it should not be up to them to ensure that children are not going to bed hungry at night.
“Unlike other countries, there is no comprehensive school meals policy in Ireland, an area the Green Party has persistently fought to improve. We launched our school Dinners Policy in 2015 which aimed to see at least one meal provided to every schoolchild during the school day, and five years later we are still waiting for the Minister for Social Protection to roll-out such a scheme to all schools.
“Any public policy initiatives that impact on the income and public services that many low-income households depend on need to be poverty-proofed going forward. We also need to work with schools and communities to equip them with the necessary resources to address their own food needs, whether through allotments and community gardens, increased funding for schools to provide food provision and education to children on nutrition, and grants for youth clubs to install kitchens.
“All children deserve an equal opportunity to progress in life, but some are currently being denied their most basic needs. The government urgently needs to work towards addressing the inequality that exists in Irish society”, concluded Deputy Costello.
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