By Sarah Mac Donald - 02 December, 2014
“We can’t get enough food to serve the families and people that we are trying to work with,” Crosscare’s Senior Manager for Food Service, Michael McDonagh, said on Monday as the charity launched it Christmas food appeal.
The diocesan social care agency is appealing for donations of non-perishable food to its food bank to assist those in most need this Christmas and into 2015.
Next weekend, parishes across the archdiocese of Dublin will collect donations of non-perishable food from parishioners which will help replenish Crosscare’s stocks.
The types of food urgently needed include pasta, rice, fruit juice, tea, coffee, soup, sugar, powdered milk, tinned meat/fish, tinned vegetables/fruit, biscuits and hygiene products.
At the current rate of distribution, Crosscare expects to have distributed over 1,200 tonnes of food by the end of the year. That is almost double the amount the food bank disbursed last year (750 tonnes).
Crosscare supplies food directly to those who need it most and to 70 other charities working to help people who are marginalised, excluded or living in poverty.
Conor Hickey, Director of Crosscare, said at Monday’s launch that the appeal is primarily about providing food to support families and “to make sure we are getting the right food to the right people at the right time”.
He explained that those who need assistance will get a voucher from a local charity and they can then redeem that voucher with a food parcel for a family or an individual for a week from Crosscare.
He said the response to last year’s appeal by local parishes in Dublin “was absolutely overwhelming”.
Speaking at Crosscare’s food bank and café on Portland Row in Dublin’s north inner city, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin appealed to the Irish public to be “more attentive” to the way they buy and use food.
“We shouldn’t be buying food that we will throw away,” he warned.
“We live in an extraordinary world in which every day tonnes of food in this city alone are thrown away and yet there are people who need the food,” the archbishop commented.
Dr Martin described Crosscare’s food bank as a creative service which redirected some of the food which would otherwise have been thrown out.
Referring to the people who come to the food bank and its café for assistance, Dr Martin said most of them were homeless. “We have the problem of children who are hungry going to school,” he highlighted.
He added that Crosscare’s café offers them “healthy food in surroundings that are convivial where they meet one another and support another and make sure that nobody drifts off in the wrong direction”.
He congratulated Crosscare on its distribution of 1,200 tonnes of food, which he said was “really quite striking when you realise that this is the work of one organisation”.
Michael McDonagh, Senior Manager for Food Service at Crosscare, said the profile of people coming to the centre was changing.
“Two years ago it would have been mainly elderly men who were affected by homelessness. Now, what you have got is a cross section of society – women, the elderly, children. Two years ago you wouldn’t have seen a child’s high chair in a food centre and now in our café we have got three or four of them – that is the amount of kids we have coming through the door,” he said.
According to Michael McDoangh, the people availing of the service are those who find themselves in an emergency situation.
“People are really struggling, finding it hard to make ends meet. Some of them have a job or a car and then an unexpected bill comes in or their car breaks down and they don’t have the money to cover the bill. That is where a place like this can open the doors and just let everybody in.”
Linda Keogh is a mother of two who was made homeless six years ago when her relationship fell apart and she was forced to “start from scratch”.
She comes to the Portland Row centres “Mostly every day because I have access to the internet, I can have a cup of tea and catch up with friends.”
“My son is going to school close by and it is better for me to be here than sitting in the train station all day,” she said.
Linda Keogh told CatholicIreland.net, “Hopefully I will be getting a home soon but in the meantime it is great to have a place like this to come to where there is lovely food and you meet nice people. It gets you out. Sometimes I suffer with depression but when I come here I meet friends – I just like it,” she said.