Schools across the country are clamouring to offer free breakfasts to pupils as they’re increasingly concerned that children are not being fed before coming to school.
Earlier this week, it emerged a seven-year-old who collapsed in a Cork City classroom was found to be “severely undernourished”. Social services were informed and a doctor was called to the northside primary school.
In the past three years, 8.5% more schools across the country were granted access to the Urban School Meals Scheme — a scheme which provides food to 49,000 school-going children in 332 schools. In total, up to 189,000 children avail of food under the wider school meals programme.
In the western suburbs of Cork City, one school is providing the service this year however a further eight have applied to provide free breakfasts from September, according to Mick Finn, who is helping run the Department’s School Completion Programme in the area.
Requests for free breakfast are made to school management by teachers concerned about students inability to concentrate. They are also made to management by parents.
Meanwhile, St Vincent de Paul in Cork has said they are aware of five adults who collapsed from hunger in Cork City since Christmas.
“We are seeing this from the new poor where people are trying desperately to stay in their accommodation: to pay their mortgage or their rent and that they are sacrificing food to do this,” he said. “I was in a house recently where a 17-year-old went out to play some game at night and I heard his mother warn him ‘Don’t touch that bread when you come in as we need it for breakfast in the morning’.
“Even in the past couple of months, a woman collapsed in the city centre and another man collapsed at the front of his house. In both of this incidents, it’s believed that lack of food was the cause of their collapse,” said St Vincent de Paul president Brendan Dempsey.
Children’s charity Barnardos say they are “certainly aware” of adults who are depriving themselves of food so their children can eat.
“People are managing from week to week but if there is something unexpected like a child needing shoes, it can mean that they can’t buy food.”
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