CHRISTMAS is the season of giving, and a time when acts of charity are forefront in our minds. Many of us will be fortunate in spending time with loved ones, sharing food with friends and family, and enjoying the comforts of home. But others will face Christmas alone, on the streets, unable to afford the seasonal frills.
According to Charities Aid Foundation’s World Giving Index, Ireland is the fifth most charitable country in the world, defined by three types of giving behaviour: helping a stranger; donating money to a charity, or volunteering time to an organisation. An achievement for a small island nation like ours.
Whether regularly participating in charitable acts or motivated to give something for the first time, deciding where and what to donate can seem overwhelming.
Donating to charitable organisations that provide food to those in need are vital. Everyone needs to eat, and having enough food to eat provides dignity and security, as well as fuel for achieving the little victories that pepper our days.
Cork is fortunate in its many charities providing food to those who are most vulnerable in our communities.
Elderly, homeless, or living below the poverty line, food charities are there for them, and here is how you can support their work this Christmas.
Cork Penny Dinners
One of Cork’s oldest charitable organisations established in 1888, where no-one is turned away and everyone is provided with a hot, nourishing meal - seven days a week, all year round.
A space to meet others provides a social outlet for those on their own; food for an evening meal can be taken away, as well as supplies of clean clothes, warm blankets and sleeping bags. Everything is provided free of charge.
While they have a full cohort of volunteers, financial and food donations are always welcome and there is a Wish List to guide people who wish to donate: Gravy Granules, Peas and Beans, Soup, Microwavable Food, Tinned Rice, Olive Oil, Cooking Oil, Custard, Tinned Fruit, Jelly, Tea, Coffee, Sugar, Salt, Pepper.
Also, Biscuits, Cakes, Cereal Packets, Fresh Fruit and Veg, Juices, Dried Pasta/Spaghetti, Diluted Squashes, Toilet Rolls, Paper Towels, Refuse Sacks, Tin Foil, Tea Towels, Hand Wash, Washing Up Liquid, Bleach, Pot Scourers, Disinfectant Sprays.
Feed Cork was established in 2017 and now operates five locations in Cork city and county (Bandon), Clare, Limerick, and Wexford.
Their aim is to help raise people out of the food poverty that affects one in five people in Ireland.
Working with organisations such as FEAD, FoodCloud and Tesco Ireland, Feed Cork redistributes perfectly good food that would otherwise be thrown away and creates food packages that can be collected at any of their food banks.
Feed Cork also encourages financial donations, and to illustrate how far a little can go, with a €3 donation (the price of a cup of coffee), Feed Cork can provide enough fresh, nutritious food to feed a family for two to three days.
Donations of food are also welcome as is time for those who wish to volunteer in any aspect of the food bank – from sorting food donations and creating food packages, to helping those who attend the food bank.
Feed Cork ask that food donations are within their use by date; undamaged; clearly labelled in their original packaging; properly refrigerated or frozen food. This includes fresh vegetables, fruit, bread, and dairy, frozen or fresh meats, and non-perishable foods.
UCC Students’ Union Food Bank
Heading off to college should be the ticket to the time of your life, but this academic year students hit the headlines for an altogether different reason. One hour after opening the Students’ Union operated food bank at UCC, it was forced to close after it ran out of food.
The high cost of living associated with attending college is attributed to the spike in demand.
The Students’ Union responded by creating a GoFundMe pledge to enable the food bank to restock and respond to the needs of students accessing the service. The goal was set at €5,000 and, at the time of writing, it had reached €25,560.
The money will be used to purchase non-perishable food items, such as pasta, rice, and sauces, and other essential products for students to access, via the UCC Common Room every Wednesday between 5pm and 7pm. Contact the UCC Students’ Union to find out how to donate money or food to their Food Bank initiative.
Meals on Wheels County-wide
More than 40 locally supported Meals on Wheels groups operate independently in towns and neighbourhoods across Cork city and county. From Glounthane to Bantry, Fermoy to Knocknaheeny, Blarney to Kinsale, and more.
There isn’t a national network of Meals on Wheels groups, but many operate out of community centres, family recourse centres, Irish Countrywomen’s Association groups, and Care of the Aged groups, among others and often in conjunction with the HSE.
They work to provide food packages and nutritious meals, as well as a valuable point of contact for elderly and vulnerable people who may be living on their own.
The HSE’s Age Friendly Guide has collated information on many of the groups, including how to contact and when they operate. As they operate on a volunteer basis, financial donations are always appreciated to continue providing services.
Cork Simon has provided essential services to the homeless of Cork since 1971, when it began its nightly Soup Run, operating ever since.
Cork’s homeless have been particularly vulnerable these past two years, and Cork Simon had to alter the way they carried out their work.
But the Soup Run continued, and in 2020 it was a lifeline for 674 men and women, serving 11,467 hot meals.
The Soup Run also incorporates the charities Outreach service, providing everything from clean clothes and blankets to advice and support for those who are, or are on the point of, homelessness.
Financial donations are essential for Cork Simon to continue their work. This can be done easily online, or via their 2021 Christmas Jumper fundraising drive.
Homeless Help and Support Cork
Every Tuesday and every second Friday at 9pm at the Ulster Bank on Patrick Street, HHSC offer a food and clothing outreach service to the homeless of Cork city.
Their soup kitchen provides a hot meal for around 40 people, and services include counselling for those who are sleeping rough.
All volunteers are Garda vetted, and HHSC are always open for new applicants looking to offer their time to support their work. Financial donations can be made online via an ongoing fundraising drive on iFundraise.ie.
Whether it’s time, money, or food, a donation made to these worthwhile charities will always be appreciated.
Donations provide vital services to those who most need it and, in the process, help share a little Christmas cheer.