New research launched today found that 25 per cent of parents often worry about not being able to provide food for their children and nearly three in 10 people in Ireland have witnessed child food poverty first-hand.
The research was launched by national children’s charity Barnardos and leading grocery retailer Aldi Ireland. The research comes as the charity hosts a forum on child food poverty today
The new research, conducted by Amárach Research on behalf of Barnardos and Aldi Ireland, explores both the prevalence and impact of food poverty in Ireland on vulnerable children and families. The study found that 9 per cent of parents feel “close” to food poverty.
Families are particularly affected by this issue, with 10 per cent of parents and those looking after children skipping meals in an average week in order to feed the children in their care, increasing to almost 30 per cent when including those who report doing so “occasionally”.
Nineteen per cent of those looking after children said they have skipped meals themselves or reduced portion size, so their family and children have enough to eat, increasing to 40 per cent of those not working.
The harsh impact of food poverty on families and children was evident in the study’s findings. Fifty-one per cent of parents stated they have in the past cut down spending in other areas such as household and medical bills, loan repayments, and transport to afford food. This rose to nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) among those not working, including homemakers.
The emotional impact this experience has on parents is significant with one quarter (25 per cent) often worried about not being able to provide food for children in their care, again increasing to 34 per cent of those not working.
Of the one quarter who worry, the biggest impact on their concerns about providing food was rising costs and pressure on household finances (81 per cent of parents who worry).
In the study, parents who are concerned about food described themselves as feeling “stressed” (36 per cent), “worried about the future” (33 per cent), and “guilty” (30 per cent), about their current situation, among other negative emotions.
With nearly three in 10 people witnessing child food poverty first-hand, the long-lasting impact of this on children was also observed.
Three in four (74 per cent) of those who witnessed child food poverty first-hand noticed an impact on the child’s physical development, while a similarly high number saw how it affected their social and emotional development (70 per cent). Food poverty also affected the child’s education (65 per cent) and ability to maintain relationships (44 per cent).
Commenting on the launch of the research, Suzanne Connolly, CEO Barnardos, said: “These research 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, deprived of access to fundamental life essentials such as food and heat. Parents tell us of the very difficult decisions they are forced to make to keep their family fed, by either going without a meal themselves, or needing to turn off their heating in order buy food - with one respondent saying they feel like a failure.
“We know that a child who is hungry, cannot concentrate which is why food is such a key part of many of Barnardos services – from providing meals to children daily, and providing families with food parcels to take home. Access to affordable nutritious food is key to a child’s development and has a lifelong positive impact on a child. Our partnership with Aldi Ireland allows us to support families where access to food and the impact that has on a family, is a very real problem.”
Aldi established a long-term partnership with Barnardos in 2020 with the aim of raising €1 million for the children’s charity. The supermarket has raised over €450,000 for Barnardos to date through a series of exciting initiatives including the launch of its first cookbook Home, alongside the IRFU, with all profits going towards Barnardos’ Early Years and Family Support Services.
To support Barnardos’ services to vulnerable children and families in Ireland, Aldi customers can text KIDS to 50300 to donate €4 [Text costs €4. Barnardos will receive a minimum of €3.60. Service Provider: LIKECHARITY. Helpline: 01 481 9311.].