Caitriona Twomey: People are without so much — 'grim' is the only word that suits it

One jobless man asked Cork Penny Dinners for baby wipes to wash himself
Caitriona Twomey: People are without so much — 'grim' is the only word that suits it

Caitriona Twomey: It is difficult to get pastas and spaghetti and things like that and we hear it is going to become more difficult." Picture: Jim Coughlan

"A man came there a while ago, looking for pack of baby wipes, looking to wash himself. He can't get a job - he's at his wit's end. In this day and age - it's awful to be looking at it, like. It's awful for him to be asking me for a packet of baby wipes."

Caitriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners is not given to hyperbole, so when she describes the struggles of those seeking help, and how she and her colleagues "are human beings as well", you have to listen.

"i can see people being without so much that the word 'grim' suits it," she says.

 Caitriona Twomey: "It's hard for us too, to know how embarrassed he is to have to ask for it. But he has to survive." Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Caitriona Twomey: "It's hard for us too, to know how embarrassed he is to have to ask for it. But he has to survive." Picture: Jim Coughlan.

It makes for sobering listening on the eve of Budget 2023. Now a new spectre is on the horizon - food shortages impacting those who feed those who struggle to feed themselves.

Aoibheann O'Brien, the co-founder of FoodCloud, which directs surplus food from retailers, producers and suppliers to community organisations, said that since August "there has been a sharp reduction" in the quantity of food available.

"Now it is [retailers] reducing product lines, maybe there is a shortage of ingredients for manufacturing, for example. The feedback is that some of our partners may be struggling to fulfil their own orders, never mind having any surplus.

 Caitriona Twomey says, Cork Penny Diners are dreading their upcoming energy bills. Picture: Jim Coughlan
Caitriona Twomey says, Cork Penny Diners are dreading their upcoming energy bills. Picture: Jim Coughlan

"It is a challenging time but we would look at it as saying there is more surplus out there and where possible the food industry should be reaching out to organisations such as ourselves or Penny Dinners, for example."

Caitriona Twomey pays tribute to Musgraves, the Penny Dinners supplier of choice, but says: "We have heard that as well. It is difficult to get pastas and spaghetti and things like that and we hear it is going to become more difficult.

"When we shop now for our hampers - before it was easier to shop and bring your order and you get it. Now it is not that easy, you might be short something or not have the quantities."

 Caitriona Twomey outlined how the team worked solidly "without a breather" for almost six hours on Monday morning. Picture: Jim Coughlan
Caitriona Twomey outlined how the team worked solidly "without a breather" for almost six hours on Monday morning. Picture: Jim Coughlan

There has been a big surge in demand at Penny Dinners - Caitriona outlines how the team worked solidly "without a breather" for almost six hours on Monday morning. "We can't leave people hungry," she said.

She wants a reassurance from the government that there won't be shortages of food. As for their energy bills, "I will let you know next week. It's on the way. We're dreading it."

As the government prepares a package of measures aimed at getting the country through what could prove a long and difficult winter, they could do worse than listen to what Caitriona has to say, and the story of the man and the baby wipes.

"Can you imagine asking that? To build up the courage and guts to ask for a thing like that." Her tone remains even but she falters a little. "It's hard for us too, to know how embarrassed he is to have to ask for it. But he has to survive."

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