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Starving Irish people pleading for food from soup kitchen as last resort

Catriona Twomey, who runs soup kitchen Penny Dinners in Cork, said that people are calling as a last resort after going hungry for a few 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 told the Sunday World.

"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."

The volunteer-run kitchen provides more than 1,800 meals a week for people in need. In addition, people in need get sandwiches and fruit to take away as an evening meal.

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Last week, a volunteer brought food to a desperate mother who had spent all her money on food for her baby, leaving nothing for herself.

The mother hadn't eaten in days and said she was starving. She had to move from her home due to circumstances out of her control.

Catriona explained that she gets a lot of parents looking for food for their children. The parents are too afraid to admit that they are homeless as their children could be taken away from them by social servicies.

"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."

The Penny Dinners manager said she wishes that there was a system in place to keep people waiting on social welfare payments, off the streets - especially women and children.

She felt that the Irish government is "turning a blind eye" to this crisis.

"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 soup kitchen is due to get an overhaul this Christmas thanks to hoteliers John and Francis Brennan who are calling on the public to donate key items such as tables, chairs and fridges in order to complete the transformation.

The six-week make-over will feature on on RTÉ show At Your Service, later in the year.

"It will mean we can reach all the families we have to. They will do a great job," said Catriona.

Irish Independent

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From Belfast Telegraph