The hardship caused by Covid-19 will see an almost 60% increase in requests for food from children’s charity Barnardos — with many mothers and fathers choosing to go hungry in order to feed their children.
The charity said young families have been especially exposed to food poverty since March, and that its services currently show an anticipated 57% increase in need from families seeking help with food support for their children in the coming months.
Some 35% of families with young children increased spending on food from March to June, with Barnardos providing 7,250 food parcels and 9,620 hot meals to families unable to access nutritious food for their children.
A number of parents admitted that they have been eating smaller, or fewer meals, because they are worried their family won’t have enough food, Barnardos claimed.
The charity has launched a €1m fundraising drive with German discount retailer Aldi in order to shore up its finances in the coming months.
The funds will go directly to Barnardos Early Years and Family Support Programmes, enabling it to provide the 10,000 warm meals to children who attend its centres in addition to funding other key services, the organisation said.
More than 21,000 vulnerable and at-risk families and young children are said to be helped by Barnardos each year.
Director of Barnardos children’s services, Siobhan Greene, said the charity has seen a 30% rise in referrals to its services.
“At the start of the crisis, we were able to immediately respond to their needs in a practical way by providing food and basic essentials, and by offering support regarding understanding and managing the emotional impact of this challenging time.
“As we progress through the next stage of the crisis, we are expecting to see further significant demands for our services from children and families who are struggling to cope.”
Aldi said the €1m will be delivered through a two-year programme of staff, store, customer and community fundraising initiatives.
The campaign echoes the burgeoning movement in Britain by Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford, who has used his platform to call for millions of meals to be provided for children in vulnerable positions.
The campaign has captured the public imagination, with local councils and businesses adding their support by the day to ensure children can be fed during the school holidays.
In turn, the movement has led to a backlash against the British Government that has resisted supporting Mr Rashford's campaign, providing a major public relations headache for the Tory party.
Back in Ireland, Barnardos called on Aldi customers to donate €4 by texting BARNARDOS to 50300 or by making a donation online, with €4 providing a hot dinner and access to specialised care for a child in a Barnardos after-school club.