What has happened to Ireland? Nessa Childers MEP asked today as it is announced that food banks will begin operating around the country from the summer.
‘I think this is truly shocking. Yes there will always be people in need, but ten years ago I don’t think any of us could have imagined that such great numbers of Irish citizens would become reliant on food charity,’ Miss Childers said this morning.
‘People are going hungry because they are suffocating under unemployment, negative equity and a lack of proper Social Welfare support. Sadly, here are all too few prospects for these people.’
She added: ‘This is being driven by Leinster House’s policy of unrelenting austerity and an over-focus on a low-wage economy.’
St Vincent de Paul, which is involved in the initiative, estimates that there are 600,000 suffering from food poverty in this country, while CSO figures show that a fifth of children go to school hungry. OECD figures from last month reveal that the numbers experiencing food poverty has doubled in just five years.
The first Bia Food Bank will open in Cork on June, with further plans to operate in Dublin and Galway.
‘Of course I support this initiative – and it is a wonderful one – but really, questions need to be asked: why, in Ireland in 2014, is this service so desperately needed in the first place? Why are ordinary, hard-working people going without proper meals?
‘And let’s not forget the wider implications, including social isolation and health problems.
‘Austerity in Ireland is driving down basic living conditions,’ Ms Childers, an independent politician, also said. ‘When children are going to school hungry, surely that is proof positive that our economic policies desperately need to change.’