'Not proud' | 

Irish nurse forced to steal toast during 14-hour shifts as food prices soar

“Families will bring us in cakes and treats and I was hoping that someone would bring something in so I could eat”

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Claire Little with daughter Sophia (six), says she is paying an extra €1,200 a year on groceries

Pensioner Teresa Cahill

Denise SmithSunday World

A young nurse has revealed how she is forced to steal toast during 14-hour shifts so she doesn’t collapse with hunger as the price of basics like bread and milk reach an all-time high.

Aoife (32), who lives in the midlands is struggling to survive with the rising cost of living and the rising food prices.​

Rampaging levels of inflation have pushed cash-strapped families and singletons to the edge, with new data revealing that the annual average food shop is set to rise by €868 a year.

A basket of basics that include milk, bread, butter and a dozen eggs now rings in at €11 with inflation having risen to its highest level since June 1984.

The healthcare worker, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job, is now unable to afford the most basic food staples and is starving on the frontline – in what is truly a harrowing indictment of modern Ireland.

With no other option but to steal toast and cereal from the hospital she works in due to soaring food costs, the exhausted nurse revealed: “Yesterday, before I went into work there was nothing in my press for lunch. Families will bring us in cakes and treats and I was hoping that someone would bring something in so I could eat. I am dependent on strangers to feed me.

“On other days I go into work at 6.30am, just before the chef comes in, so I can take bread for my lunch. Sometimes I order extra toast for patients or extra cereal for myself on bad days, it’s not my proudest moment but it keeps my strength up.”

Caring for the sick and elderly, the young nurse says she is often on the brink of collapse as she faces into another day of food poverty.

“You are there to promote health and wellness and I am about to faint by someone’s bedside. I am dizzy and exhausted.”

Now reliant on bargain-bin food that lacks nourishment, the frontline worker said: “Too Good to Go is an app where you can buy food that’s nearly gone off. I paid €4 for it last week and got a random bag of bits, so I had gone-off Mikado biscuits for my lunch today.

“My shop is now pasta, beans and noodles; it’s all cheap, very filling food but it’s not a nourishing diet. Just something that will keep me going. Meat is too expensive now so I am forced to go vegetarian.”

With little or no money left at the end of the month after bills, rent and soaring diesel costs, Aoife is in crisis.

“Even if the HSE could feed us at work, that at least would be something. I used to live abroad, and came back to Ireland when they called all the Irish nurses back during Covid to help. They promised us everything and never delivered. It’s hard to be hopeful.”

Aoife, of course, is not alone. In grim findings, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) says food and non-alcoholic beverages have increased by over 10pc in a year. Bread is up 16pc, poultry is up 17.6pc, milk has risen by 25.4pc and butter is up almost 20pc.

For pensioner, Teresa Cahill, 68, hiked-up organic food prices have decimated her quality of life.

“I am allergic to the oestrogen that is being put in food products. Because I have too much of it in my body I have problems with lumps under my arms and at one point thought I needed surgery.

“I can only eat organic eggs and meat because they are not fed with feed that has oestrogen (sic).”

Pensioner Teresa Cahill

Documenting a huge surge in the cost of her weekly grocery bill, the proud grandmother revealed: “My organic eggs have gone from €1.99 to €2.39, to €2.69. I use to get organic mince in Tesco for €3.50 and it’s anything up to €6 – a huge rise. And organic chicken has gone up about €5.”

Surviving on a State pension of just over €200 a week, luxuries don’t exist in the Dubliner’s life.

“I have cut back – the hairdresser, going out for a cup of coffee with friends, dinners.

“The socialising is so important when you are older and live alone but I have had to tell people that I can’t get them Christmas presents this year and I won’t be able to go on weekends away or on holiday.

“With the cost of electricity, heat and internet, there is not much left. I am lucky I have the bus pass.”

A member of the Sister Sheds – a support network for women in Dublin, Teresa added: “I would not have any social life without that amazing group. Now the food and heat are my priority.”

Looking to the future, the pensioner is frightened for more price hikes.

“If every single week you go into the supermarket and everything is going to go up, how long is this going to last? The pension hasn’t gone up. Nobody is tackling the rising cost of food.

“It’s a basic right of every human being to buy nourishing food. But the income doesn’t match the prices at the moment.”

Claire Little with daughter Sophia (six), says she is paying an extra €1,200 a year on groceries

Despite shoppers being thriftier with their money and opting for own-brand products, a study carried out by Kantar showed that the average price paid for each item has increased by 6.3%.

Single mum Claire Little (42), who is mum to Sophia, (six), is paying an extra €1,200 a year on her grocery shop.

“My shopping every week would have been €85 – €70 for the shop and €15 for milk and bread during the week. It’s now over €100 a week and that adds up to an extra €100-plus a month.

“Butter really went up, and bread went up about 25 cent. The bananas also went up by about 40 cent, and that includes most of the fruit.

“It’s staples that are affected now, you have to have milk, bread and butter, you can’t scrimp on these. I shop in Aldi and think it is a lot more expensive to eat healthy than buy convenience foods.

“If you buy the makings of a lasagne and made the sauce it’s going to cost over €10 whereas, you can buy a pizza and frozen chips for €3. That’s going to have an impact down the line,” Claire added.

Highlighting what she calls the Government’s ineptitude and inaction, the Mullingar woman who has a successful career in insurance, added: “In Ireland, people don’t talk about money or their struggles, so a lot of people will not talk about their difficulties and that is going to affect mental health.

“But you’re not in that situation because you are gambling your money away; we are in this situation because the Government has made living unattainable and unaffordable for regular people like pensioners who have paid tax all their lives.”

The price of some of Ireland’s most popular pints are also set for an “unprecedented” increase of around 25c next month as Heineken told pubs they were increasing the price of kegs.

In response to the move, Brian Foley, Communications & Public Affairs Manager of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland said: “Pubs are about the people who visit them so for publicans to have to raise prices to cover their soaring costs is something they don’t want to do.

“One way the Government could help is by reducing the excise on alcohol, which is currently the second-highest in Europe. If they lowered the rate, punters would see an immediate decrease in the cost of a pint.”

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