SOUP kitchens are preparing to produce a festive 'loaves and fishes' miracle, thanks to donations of over 2,000 turkeys and hams for the needy.
An army of volunteers is kicking into action in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford aiming to provide a special Christmas for those who cannot afford it themselves.
Thousands of charity turkeys and hams will be cooked and served nationwide over the next three days – with many anticipating that St Stephen's Day will be busier than Christmas.
One of Ireland's oldest charities, Cork Penny Dinners, said they were facing one of their busiest Christmas operations since the late 19th Century.
The charity, founded in 1841, feeds more than 100 people daily. Hot meals are provided in return for a coin of any value. In the space of two years, the charity has witnessed an estimated 50pc hike in the number of people asking for food support.
"The level of food donations from businesses and individuals has been fantastic," volunteer Catriona Twomey told the Irish Independent
"On Christmas Day, we will be helped by the River Lee Hotel. For us, St Stephen's Day will probably be our busiest over the festive season and we expect to be feeding around 120 to 150 people," she said.
In Dublin, the Simon Community, the Capuchin Day Centre and St Vincent de Paul will be catering for the needy.
The Capuchin Day Centre on Bow Street, which opened in 1969, has seen its numbers soar from 50 when the centre first began operations to a current feeding list of more than 500.
Br Kevin Crowley, who operates the kitchen, said they now have more than 1,600 people calling each week for food parcels.
The centre often deals with up to 27 children at their daily dinner service.
In Galway and Athlone, the Twist soup kitchen, set up by former pilot Ollie Williams, is also expecting a major increase in demand.
"It'll be our busiest day by far. At this point we're expecting more than 70 people in Galway and almost 40 in Athlone. But we've had fantastic support from business owners," he said.