Food banks are bracing for a further rise in the number of families having to avail of their services as they start to feel the full pinch of the Covid-19 shutdown.
With up to 300,000 more people forecasted to lose their jobs in the coming months, food banks, charities, and non-profits have seen a surge in demand for services since March.
“This is only the start of it because it is only getting to the stage where people won’t be getting their steady wage coming in every week,” said Kate Durrant, a volunteer with St Vincent de Paul Cork.
The charity delivers food to 2,500 households a week across Cork city and county.
“We’ve already seen an increase and we expect to see an appreciable increase from people who may never have had to reach out to St Vincent de Paul before,” said Ms Durrant. “We will be there and we won’t let anyone go hungry.”
Kerry’s only food bank, Foodshare Kerry, has also seen an increase in the numbers of people seeking its services, according to manager Courtney Sheehy.
“We’re predicting over the coming weeks it will increase even more, because a lot of people have received two weeks’ wages,” said Ms Sheehy. “They’re OK financially now but in the coming weeks rents will still have to be paid.
Even though I know that they can’t get evicted at the moment, the same bills are coming in and the wages will have decreased.
Panic buying in Tralee meant people without a lot of income missed out, said Ms Sheehy.
“When they went to the stores, even though they would have had enough money for their food shopping, they didn’t really have anything that they could buy,” she said.
Panic buying and a change in eating habits have also affected the type of food going to food banks, according to Hamp Sirmans, director of Feed Cork.
“We did see a change in what people were purchasing, which directly affected us, as well as the amount they were purchasing because we would survive on surplus,” said Mr Sirmans.
Feed Cork, along with SVP Cork and Foodshare Kerry, receives food surplus from supermarkets and businesses through FoodCloud.
“Until we get back to some normalcy and patterns of shopping for people, that’s going to continue to happen,” said Mr Sirmans.
It comes as one teacher at a Cork City school said he believes people still do not understand the full extent of food hardship.
Colin Daly, deputy principal of the North Monastery Primary School, praised its teachers for helping to pack and distribute food to the school’s vulnerable students.
“They put themselves in harm’s way I suppose with this virus but you can really see it doesn’t bother them, it’s what needs to be done,” said Mr Daly.
“You’d kind of get a feel for some of the families who could struggle from this but I’ve never seen it as evident as this in the last couple of weeks.
“I feel as a school, it’s the least we can do, if they [healthcare workers] are putting themselves at risk. It’s the least we can do.”