Irish Food,  Opinion

What Happens If You Have No Food?

I was all geared up to write a post about buns, cupcakes and fairycakes. Honestly. I even had photographs ready to go and then something stopped me in my tracks.  Namely the BBC programme for Sports Relief that aired on Wednesday and Thursday nights, called “Famous, Rich And Hungry” and then that got me thinking. What would happen if I had no food left in my house today?

Before anybody gets concerned I have food, but there are plenty of people in Irish society who don’t, as much as 10% apparently.

I live in Dublin, but it’s a good bit out of the city centre.  A return public transport ticket to the city centre where I would be able to look for help in somewhere like the Capuchin Day Mission would cost me about €10-€11. If I had that much I wouldn’t be stuck for food because I’d manage to feed the family for a few days.

This weekend is a bank holiday so if somebody were to be stuck without food today, what services are available to them for the next 3 days?

I could look to my local Community Welfare Officer for emergency assistance. Sort of. By some glitch of forward planning, the CWO for my area is actually on North Cumberland Street in Dublin City Centre. We’re back to this return trip on public transport costing at least €10 for one adult.

I could contact the St Vincent de Paul and ask them for help. They may be able to send somebody out at short notice, or assist in the form of groceries or grocery vouchers.

I could wait until the darkness falls and skulk around a few local supermarkets to see if I can find decent food in their bins. At least 1 large supermarket nearby douses their food waste in disinfectant to put off “dumpster diving” and they all employ security guards.

I could go to my local Citizen’s Information Centre and ask for them to refer me for help, or to my local Health Centre and ask for the PHN to refer me for help.

This is where it differs in Ireland to the UK. In the UK you can go to your Council and be referred to a food bank if you are in need. There is a defined route that you can take for help.  Here it’s a little foggier.

Do you think that a proper food bank structure is needed in Ireland, and a set way to get access to assistance?  I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Please Note: This post is based on my personal knowledge and experience. If anybody has any further information to add please do comment below.  I am not criticising the fantastic service that Crosscare & the St Vincent de Paul do in the slightest, in fact I feel that if they weren’t there, Irish society would be in a far worse position.

I'm an Irish mother to 2 boys, born & bred in Dublin, Ireland. I like to cook simple & fresh food for the family, with the family on a budget.


  • Tracey Holsgrove

    A thought-provoking post C. I am shocked at the supermarket dousing its unsold food (I hate to use the term waste) in disinfectant. I wonder what the situation would be for a person in that position where I live (rural north Meath). I do strongly believe there should be a more coherent way to get assistance in Ireland and I do also feel we need a system of food banks.

    • Wholesome Ireland

      Tracey I’m guessing that the situation is similar, although you may not have as long to travel as I do – because your network of CWO would be in a local village. Whereas mine is in Dublin.

  • Ioana Simileanu

    Great article, as always. I wan often wondering about that, especially today this is of a great concern.

  • Mimi

    A group of people at my church in Jackson, Mississippi, St. Richard Catholic Church, who started an organization called The Gleaners. They get day-old bread, produce, etc. from local grocery stores. They also get leftover food from restaurants, hotels, parties, etc.. (When I got married, I had The Gleaners come get the food left over from my wedding reception.) They started very small, just one or two volunteers–mostly retired people. They will show up when events are over–have ziplock bags and plastic containers to collect the food.

    Now they have a full staff, have gotten donated vans, and built a building to collect and distribute the leftover food they receive. Because I have only helped with the collection and organizing of the food, I am not sure exactly how they distribute the food.

    While I can understand that the grocery store does not want people in their dumpsters, I agree that pouring disinfectant on leftover food is horrible and such a terrible waste. May be this is something that could be organized in your town to collect the food from the grocery stores. (I don’t know about in Ireland, but here, the stores get charged by the amount of garbage that is picked up–another way for the store to save money by reducing their garbage!)

    Good luck! Mimi

  • Looking for Blue Sky

    Unbelievable that we even have to be discussing this is such a rich country. Just wondering if local churches help? And in times gone by,you went to the neighbours if you were stuck, but perhaps that doesn’t happen any more..

    • Wholesome Ireland

      I think that the neighbours would help if you asked. I know mine would. I also know that I would perhaps feel uncomfortable discussing something so personal with people I see every day.

  • Hazel

    No food in the house is a scary thought, I know myself I was brought up by a single mother and times were thought but there was always basics in our house. In this day and age in this country people should not be going hungry but they are and its a disgrace. Most definitely there needs to be an accesable way of getting the food to those who need it and then educating them on how to make their money go further.

    • Wholesome Ireland

      There are always basics in this house as well, but that’s because I budget very tightly to make sure we have at least 2 weeks food in store in case we have a financial emergency. I totally agree on the topic of food being accessible.

  • Sophie Le Cuiche

    I live in Athenry and even though I’m not stuck for food, I found last September that our local CWO was closing and relocating to Loughrea, which is not that easily accessible by public transport: we are a small-medium sized town where the population is growing, so I don’t understand this move, if anything more people will need the service than before.
    Between Loughrea and Galway it may be 30 or 40 miles: I’m lucky I can still afford keeping my car so I can use the motorway but a lot of people I know rely on trains and buses and these are far from being cheap in semi-rural areas like ours.
    Some people might go to Galway Social Welfare because it’s easier to get there, if you get a lift from a neighbour as more people would travel to Galway than Loughrea for work or shopping,only to get sent back to Loughrea, it’s just a big sad mess!

  • Philip

    Great article! Is it illegal though? I subbed for your emails. All the best. Oh iiam in the midlands of Ireland.

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