Doras Alarmed By Rising Rates of Food Poverty Among Migrants

Migrant and refugee support organisation Doras is alarmed by evidence of rising rates of food poverty among people from migrant backgrounds. The organisation has been operating a food provision system this summer and say they are shocked by the levels of deprivation and the impact this is having on children in particular.

Doras CEO John Lannon believes an urgent cross-sectoral response is required to what he describes as “unacceptable levels of hunger and poverty being experienced in a country where food and finance are plentiful”.

“Having access to a decent supply of food for our families is something many of us take for granted these days. However, this is sadly not the reality for many living in towns and cities throughout Ireland today. We’re a country that has known great hunger and as a republic, we say we aspire to offer a basic standard of living to all, but what we’ve been witnessing lately holds a revealing and disturbing mirror up to the nation”.

“Migrants are often among the more vulnerable members of the population, especially refugees, and those living in direct provision. It’s clear the housing emergency is worsening and driving a new level of deprivation that is leading to not just homelessness, but also hunger. People simply can’t afford the exorbitant rents being asked by landlords and state supports are generally inadequate. Meanwhile, thousands of people who have their papers are trapped in cramped direct provision centres but have nowhere else to go. Many are ending up on the streets or in homeless hubs with no access to cooking facilities. This situation is more acute during the summer months when the school meal programme isn’t available to children. The situation is compounded by the fact migrant families often lack vital social supports due to the absence of grandparents, uncles, and aunts, which traditionally help out with childcare and other needs. While summer camps can play a role, many are prohibitive due to cost barriers”.

It is against this backdrop that Doras, with the support of the Children’s Rights Alliance and Enterprise Rent a Car, has been operating a summer scheme called ‘Food Provision Scheme for Children and Young to Tackle Holiday Hunger 2022’. This has been providing thousands of euros worth of food vouchers to people in need, as well as a direct supply of fresh fruit and vegetables.

“The consequences of ignoring the situation are too stark to ignore. We know from the Children’s Rights Alliance’s Child Poverty Monitor 2022 that poor nutrition in children is linked to reduced development and cognitive functioning, delayed school enrolment, impaired concentration, increased illness, absenteeism, and early school leaving. This report also notes that being able to buy nutritious food locally or having access to transport to a local supermarket helps to prevent food poverty. Many of the families we support cannot do that. Many migrants often don’t have access to a car or public transport to access decent shops”.

“Initiatives like our summer initiative can be very worthwhile but they are also short-term and prove to be a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed. We need to step back and ask what’s happening here – the fact that people are being allowed to fall through what is supposed to be a social safety net. How is this happening in a wealthy country? It’s the same phenomenon that is leading to the new wave of food banks all over Ireland and the UK. Meanwhile, we see almost full employment and record tax returns and corporate profits. Things are badly out of balance, and we shouldn’t just accept this as normal or acceptable”.

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