ALMOST one in every ten people in Limerick have experienced food poverty, a new survey has shown.
A study put together by trade unions Unite and Mandate has shown that some 18,500 people across the city and county have experienced some form of food poverty in the last year.
This is defined as having missed a meal in the last fortnight due to a lack of money, or not being able to afford a meal with a meat or vegetarian equivalent once every second day, or not being able to afford a roast each week.
The figures have forced a call for an emergency budget in 2014 “to begin to address the crisis of poverty, and food poverty in Ireland.”
According to the report - codenamed Hungry for Action: Mapping Food Poverty in Ireland - Limerick has the sixth highest incidence of deprivation.
The county is behind only Dublin, Cork, Galway, Kildare, Meath and Donegal in the statistics.
Jim Prior, of the Southill Family Resource Centre, says they have seen a major increase in people looking for support in the last year.
“People are coming into us from areas we never saw them coming from before - going out as far as Co Limerick. We see many different types of families, some we have never seen before. These are families who were working last year, but are not working this year. There is a high demand for our breakfast clubs and after school clubs, which provide a hot meal,” he explained.
Despite the high number of people experiencing food poverty, Mr Prior says he is not surprised by it.
“People are trying to survive on unemployment benefits and it is so tight. I was talking to a project worker today, and she was telling me that people cannot even afford their weekly shops,” he explained.
Unite and Mandate have jointly called for a subsidy of €10m to be made available to charities, like St Vincent De Paul, who provide food relief.
They also want to see an increase in social protection rates, and a reversal to the cuts to those at risk of food poverty.
Alongside this, they want to see an increase in the minimum wage to €9,20 each week, and to allow part-time workers the right to work more hours without losing welfare pay.
Linda Ledger, manager of the St Munchin’s Community Centre, says people are often too proud to approach them for support.
“Some people think the support is for other people, and not for them. But we give everybody their first day free, then they can come in, and see there are other people like them here,” she explained.