Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection Willie O’Dea has expressed concern about the high number of children reporting going to school or bed hungry as highlighted in the The Health Behaviours in School Children (HBSC) survey 2014 published yesterday.

Commenting on the findings Deputy O’Dea said: “In this day and age the statistics are appalling. Overall, 23% of boys report ever going to school or to bed hungry compared to 21% of girls. Furthermore, a higher proportion of children from lower socio-economic backgrounds reported going hungry compared to those from higher socio-economic backgrounds.  It really is shocking that in modern day Ireland hunger is a reality for one in five children.

“However, the statistics are unfortunately not wholly surprising given the rise in food poverty.  In 2010 there were 450,000 people considered to be in food poverty and the latest data which is for 2013 shows that 600,000 people are experiencing food poverty in Ireland, an increase of 150,000 –people.

“This follows on from recent research published in June by Safefood in conjunction with the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice which found that low income households would need to spend approximately a quarter of their income in order to be able to afford a nutritionally adequate food basket and that in reality many low income households would struggle to allocate such a large proportion of their income on just one area alone, especially when you consider that so many other costs have to be met such as gas and electricity bills, and household insurance etc.

“Fine Gael and Labour are responsible for several regressive budgets that targeted those who had least to give.  The result of their policies, as the statistics show, is one in five children going hungry. Over the last number of budgets there have been cuts to the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, Child Benefit and punitive changes to the One Parent Family Payment that have targeted families and children. Other decisions could have been made, but this Government decided to pursue an agenda that punished low income families and their children. The result is a two tier Ireland where a high proportion of children are being left behind.”