A NEW survey has revealed that a quarter of parents are prioritising food over other household bills, such as gas and electricity, due to the cost-of-living crisis.
The survey, carried out by Coyne Research on behalf of the charity Barnardos Ireland and its partner ALDI Ireland, also shows food bank use has doubled.
"These findings align with Barnardos' experience of working with vulnerable children and families in communities across Ireland," said the charity's CEO, Suzanne Connolly.
"We see far too many families, often one-parent families, really worried about being able to provide their children with enough food."
Parents skipping meals
The results from the November 2022 survey showed that increasing numbers of families were struggling with the cost of living since a previous survey 10 months earlier.
A quarter of parents had to cut down on household bills such as gas and electricity in order to afford food costs over the previous 12 months, up from 18 per cent in January 2022.
Meanwhile, 43 per cent of those surveyed said they had to cut down on clothes spending to provide their children with food.
Almost half of parents surveyed (47 per cent) said that inflation had a negative impact on pressures to afford food.
Startlingly, food bank use more than doubled from January to December, with 10 per cent of parents using such services, more than double the previous rate of four-in-10.
Twenty-nine per cent of parents said they had skipped meals or reduced portion sizes so that their children would have enough to eat, up from 24 per cent previously.
Similarly, over a third of parents (39 per cent) always, mostly or occasionally fed children over themselves, up from 28 per cent.
Almost a third of parents (29 per cent) said they sometimes or occasionally worried about being able to provide their children with sufficient food, up from 19 per cent.
"Parents tell us that they are often going without food themselves in order to provide food for their children, or else are having to rely on others to get the food for them," added Ms Connolly.
"Their hunger, or that of their child, is a constant and physical reminder of the financial pressure and of the hard decisions they have to make every day.
"This is taking an emotional and physical toll on parents across the country."
ALDI Ireland partnered with Barnardos in 2020 with the goal of raising €1million to support vulnerable children and families in Ireland.
Niall O’Connor, Group Managing Director of ALDI Ireland, said the charity was providing a ‘critical’ service.
"It's clear from this research that the cost-of-living crisis is having a very negative effect on children and families across the country," said Mr O'Connor.
"With so many of the most vulnerable people in our society clearly struggling to put food on the table, essential services like those provided by Barnardos are critical."