There has been a huge increase in calls for help to the Society of St Vincent de Paul, according to the organisation's vice president.
John Monaghan told the Joint Committee on Social Protection that calls in Cork were up over 50%, while in Galway they rose by 46% and Dublin by 37%.
Mr Monaghan said that only some of these had been affected by the recession.
He said most were living on State benefits and found they just could not manage.
Up to 20% of calls were from foreign nationals.