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Food poverty is rife in Offaly says local activist

Friday, 3rd March, 2017 1:00pm
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Food poverty is rife in Offaly says local activist

Local activist Ken Smollen.

Food poverty is rife in Offaly says local activist

Local activist Ken Smollen.

Since starting a food drive before Christmas, community activist Ken Smollen says that his group has helped almost 100 local families, many of who have young children. The retired gardai admits that he has been shocked at the level of poverty that he has encountered over the last three months.

"On average I'm getting one new family calling me every day. It's an extremely hidden thing. I've visited people who no one would ever think are struggling. I think the reason people are getting in touch is that it is totally confidential even the people who are packing the food don't know who it is going to. I have a list in my pocket but I'm going to have to transfer it to my computer as the list is getting too big."

Mr Smollen says that a significant number of people who his group have helped are struggling to repay money lenders, both legal and illegal. He has also encountered families who are doing without basic necessities in a bid to prevent their homes from being repossessed.

"Some people will tell you they are spending every last cent on their mortgage. Lots of families are going without heating, some have had no heating throughout the winter and are wearing their coats inside.

"I didn't realise that people in certain areas in Tullamore are in poverty, but it seems to be affecting every area."

Completely dependent on donations, Mr Smollen says that he and his colleagues have been heartened by the generosity of the general public.

"This is a completely hidden world most people know nothing about. People are so embarrassed and ashamed."

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