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Soup Kitchen is delivering


Mark O'Neil at Balbriggan Soup Kitchen

Mark O'Neil at Balbriggan Soup Kitchen

Mark O'Neil at Balbriggan Soup Kitchen


Balbriggan Soup Kitchen is just one of many Fingal organisations that has had to adapt to meet the challenges of the Covid-19 outbreak, but with no end to the crisis in sight, its volunteers continue to serve vulnerable members of the local community.

Speaking to The Fingal Independent, soup kitchen organiser Mark O'Neill explained how the service is operating during these difficult times: 'The four soup kitchens are closed due to their size, and due to the recommendations of the health board in the sense of keeping distance from each individual.

'Unfortunately, it would be too small to try and even contemplate remaining open at all.

'We had to close when they recommended it approximately two weeks ago, because we've got about 30 seats in most of the places and we'd only have three or four people in it, so it had to be done.

'What we've done is we've upped the food parcels going to the houses and that, but there's still a minority of people that we're not getting to cater for at all, people who might be living on the street.

'It's unfortunate that we can't do anything for them, but I spoke to a couple of them on the streets last Thursday of Friday, and seemingly they've got to know a few people and a few people are looking after them.'

Mark explains: 'Originally we had about 107 or 108 deliveries per week in Balbriggan, which has gone up to about 130 at the minute and it would be the same in Drogheda, Dundalk and Navan (Mark's other three soup kitchens), so we're very busy.

'We had set people who were coming in on a regular basis, but a lot of the individuals who would have been coming in and using our facilities and coming in to get a hot meal, are now having it delivered to their house.'

Mark says Balbriggan Soup Kitchen doesn't simply provide hot meals, but that it offers an important social outlet to customers, particularly older members of the community who might otherwise be isolated at home.

People come in, he explains, not just to chat to other users, but also to members of staff, who are always at hand to provide a listening ear or words of support.

There will be a degree of loneliness now that the soup kitchen has temporarily closed, he says, but the delivery service will continue throughout the crisis, guaranteeing people will at least have a hot meal at home.

Mark says: 'In general we're a bit disappointed that we can't provide the full service, because we do it 365 days a year, but this is unprecedented and we have to go with what the health board recommends, because we don't want to be any part of creating a problem in this.'

The soup kitchen organiser concluded: 'We've been told this will go on at least for another three or four weeks but we'll be continuing to deliver meals throughout the whole thing, there's no doubt about that.'