More parents going without to feed their children, say Barnardos

Grim picture emerges of visceral effect cost of living crisis is having on families countrywide

The dire impact the cost of living crisis is having on some families has been laid bare in a new survey from Barnardos Ireland that suggests almost one-third of parents have skipped meals or reduced portion sizes over the past year so their children would have enough to eat.

The research, conducted in conjunction with Aldi Ireland, notes a dramatic increase in people using food banks and relying on food donations with the numbers doubling over the same period.

The research explores the prevalence and impact of food poverty. And it notes a deteriorating situation for many families between January and November last year.

Household bills

It found that one in 10 had used food banks over the previous 12 months, more than double the number recorded in a survey published this time last year.

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When asked if they had enough food to feed their children, 19 per cent of parents said they struggled to put enough food on the table with a quarter saying they had to cut down on household bills such as gas and electricity in order to afford food.

A further 29 per cent of parents who took part in the survey – carried out by Coyne Research among a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults – said they had skipped meals or reduced portion sizes so children would have enough to eat, up from the 24 per cent recorded in January 2022.

More parents are worried about their ability to provide sufficient food for their children, with 13 per cent saying they were “always worrying about it” (up from 6 per cent last January). A further 29 per cent said they sometimes or occasionally worry about being able to provide their children with sufficient food, significantly higher than the January 2022 figure of 19 per cent.

According to one parent cited in the survey, their child “has no lunch going to school, he can’t afford to go places with his friends, he is sitting in a cold room trying to do his homework”. 

“My daughter has three outfits and one pair of shoes that fits her, can’t afford to get her more. That’s not right,” another parent said.

Mental health

Barnardos expressed concern about the toll soaring bills are having on families’ mental health.

“These findings align with Barnardos’ experience of working with vulnerable children and families in communities across Ireland. We see far too many families, often one-parent families, really worried about being able to provide their children with enough food,” said the chief executive of Barnardos Suzanne Connolly.

“Parents tell us that they are often going without food themselves in order to provide food for their children, or else are having to rely on others to get the food for them. Their hunger, or that of their child’s, is a constant and physical reminder of the financial pressure and of the hard decisions they have to make every day. This is taking an emotional and physical toll on parents across the country.”

A parent quoted in the research said: “It’s very stressful. Children don’t know the price of living, they shouldn’t know we are not surviving at the minute. If prices get higher, I don’t know how we will survive.”

Aldi’s group managing director, Niall O’Connor, said the study made it clear “the cost-of-living crisis is having a very negative effect on children and families across the country. With so many of the most vulnerable people in our society clearly struggling to put food on the table, essential services like those provided by Barnardos are critical.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor