Update 7pm: The food bank at St John’s Pavilion in Limerick has run out after handing out 2,500 food bags to struggling families and individuals today.
More than 100 people were turned away.
“We ran out of food and we had to turn 150 people away,” said Lorraine Moroney, St Vincent de Paul.
“We’re trying to organise a team to pack and distribute 300 more hampers tomorrow from 12pm-1pm,” she added.
Earlier: Hundreds of people struggling to find money to feed themselves and their families queued in the cold and the rain in Limerick city, to collect food bags from a food bank.
The service, run jointly by the Redemptorist religious order and St Vincent de Paul, has been operating since the 1970s.
However, for many who stood in the freezing line of souls at St John’s Pavillon today, it was their first time seeking help.
Around 6,000 food bags were provided around Limerick city and county, at food banks, homeless hostels, as well as been delivered to people’s homes, and to families evicted from their homes who are living in hotels and B&Bs.
Sandra Carr, from Garryowen, who queued at the food bank with daughter, Nicola, (13), said: “It’s my second year doing it. I do it to help myself and my family. Usually there’s beans or chicken or there could be Christmas cake.”
“At the moment I’m separated and I’m on my own with six kids and I need quiet a lot of help. It’s tough…my mam and dad and my two sisters have all passed away too, so it’s been very tough on me.”
Despite it all, Sandra, (41), promised Nichola: “Christmas is going to be good. We’ll have presents, Santa is coming.”
Mary Ann Jackson, (44), from Ballinacurra Weston, also received a food bag: “I’m looking after my daughter and her two children. I have to come here, I’ve no choice.”
“I’m collecting the bag as I have my daughter living with me and she has two children and is pregnant with her third.”
“It’s my first time here, ever. I’d be delighted with anything they can give me to tell you the truth. I don’t care what’s in (the bag).”
“Money is tight, especially when I have to come to places like this, that I never came to before…I’m not saying it’s degrading, or that I’m better than anyone else; but it is hard.”
Earlier, around 30 members of the defence forces based at Sarsfield Barracks as well as volunteers from financial service company Northern Trust and accountants firm Grant Thornton, helped transfer 2,500 food bags from a warehouse to the food bank at St John’s Bingo Hall.
Redemptorist priest Fr Seamus Enright, who has been involved for the past 15 years, said: “About six thousand hampers have been delivered. We spent around €120,000 on the food this year. It was all raised by donations, so people are very generous.”
Each of the hampers contained about 20 items, including Christmas cake, crisps, chocolates, sweets, jelly, sugar, porridge, vegetables and beans.
Toys were also provided to families by the Redemptorist order.
“I thought with the upturn in the economy this year, that the demand for our help wouldn’t be as bad, but I don’t see that. A lot of people have been left behind,” Fr Enright said.
The Free Dinner Trust will provide dinner and refreshments on Christmas Day at the Gospel Hall on Mallow Street.