Cork charity says parents in emergency accommodation struggling to provide school lunches due to lack of resources

Cork charity says parents in emergency accommodation struggling to provide school lunches due to lack of resources

Caitriona Twomey pictured on Gravel Lane across from Penny Dinners, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

THE head of a Cork charity has spoken of the challenges being faced by families living in emergency accommodation who don’t have access to the resources to even make their children school lunches.

Caitriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners spoke about a child and their mother, who can’t be identified, who are currently making daily trips to Cork Penny Dinners on Little Hanover St, just to be able to eat.

She said the child and their mother are currently living in emergency accommodation without any refrigeration facilities. This, the volunteer co-ordinator said, has made storing food for this family and others impossible.

The child calls to Cork Penny Dinners for their school lunch each day, and Ms Twomey said that, while putting together their school lunches has been a pleasure, their situation highlights the challenges faced by families.

Of the child, she said: “Everyone loves and looks forward to seeing them. Every day I ask how school went, the answer is always ‘great’. They are hopeful but, at the same time, this child has had to be realistic and practical.”

“If we offer them something they might say no, but they might need it in two days’ time. They have learned not to take everything that is offered because there is no place to put it. You can’t ask a child to have cereal with milk that’s been at room temperature all night,” she added.

Urgent crisis 

Ms Twomey highlighted the urgent homelessness crisis, and hailed the child’s bravery in the face of adversity.

“Despite being extremely brave, this is still just a child.

“This problem needs to be sorted out fairly quickly because it is not just a few kids who are suffering. There are many more out there.”

Volunteers with the charity are taking extra steps to help make life bearable for children in emergency accommodation.

“If we offer them a treat they’ll say ‘yes please’.

“Most schools will only allow healthy food, which is understandable and only right. However, we always leave a little treat that they can enjoy on the way home.

“Kids, including those living in emergency accommodation, go through so much that these little things make a huge difference to their lives.”

'All this has to be done from a bedroom'

She said seeing families struggle to eat never gets easy. “We had children who came in recently who were speaking through smothered whispers. When I asked them what they wanted, the little one asked me if I had hot chocolate.

“When I gave it to them you would have thought that I was giving her gold. You have to think of what you would like for yourself and give that child the chance to experience that too, even if that’s something really small.”

She described the challenge for parents making school lunches from hotel rooms.

“It’s normally bananas, a bit of bread, cheese, a cereal bar, and juice or water.

“It’s easy for us because we have the facilities to do that. However, it’s hard to imagine making sandwiches on a bedside locker and trying to keep replacing food that’s gone off.

“All this has to be done from a bedroom.”

To find out more about Cork Penny Dinners or to donate visit http://corkpennydinners.ie/

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