Starving Irish people are ringing a soup kitchen to plead for food

NewsBy Lynne Kelleher
Food served up at Cork's Penny Dinners
Food served up at Cork's Penny Dinners

Starving Irish people who haven’t eaten for days have begun desperately ringing one of the country’s best-known soup kitchens pleading for food.

Penny Dinners in Cork City has been receiving calls from people who can’t afford to make the journey into the city for a hot meal.

Caitriona Twomey, who runs the soup kitchen, said people are calling them as a last resort after going hungry for days.

“We’ve never had calls like this before. People saying they are hungry and crying at the end of the phone. It stopped me dead in my tracks. We’re averaging five or more calls a week,” she said.

“We took food to two women this week who were in a pretty bad way. They hadn’t eaten anything in two days and we met them on day three. This just shouldn’t be happening.

“People are ringing us because they can’t afford to get to us and they are too far away. This week we had to get volunteers to drive to places to meet people and give them hot meals. You can see the look of desperation.”

She said the volunteers brought food out to one desperate mother last week who had spent all her money on food for her baby.

“Last week we went down and helped a mother and her child. The mother said she was starving and hadn’t eaten in days. She had to move from her home. She had no other choice. It wasn’t her fault. It was just things weren’t working out where she was.  

“We’re getting parents in looking for food for their children. Nobody with children will ever admit they are homeless. They would be scared to death the children would be taken off them.” 

Caitriona said another mother told her this week how social services had taken her children after she lost her home.

“A woman came in this week and she had no place to stay. Her children were gone because she had no house. Her payments were stopped because she had no address and it is being transferred next week, but in the meantime she was left to her own devices.

“If you are on the social welfare system there has to be a way to keep people waiting on payments safe and off the street. Especially the women, for the love of God keep them off the street.”

Caitriona said she can’t believe the Government is turning a blind eye.

“It’s already after reaching crisis point and has gone over it without anybody really taking notice. I think the winter is going to be frightening. I’m worried in case we lose someone here.”

However, the hugely popular manager of Penny Dinners is delighted her much-loved soup kitchen is set for a TV makeover.

The kitchen, which serves up 1,800 dinners every week, is to get an overhaul thanks to hoteliers John and Francis Brennan, who are calling on the public to donate tables, chairs and fridges in order to complete the transformation for the At Your Service TV Christmas Special this year.

“We’re getting a makeover by the Brennans. It will mean we can reach all the families we have to. They will do a great job,” said Caitriona.