Surging costs of basics is pushing more families to food banks and hubs, according to St Giles, as it prepares for an increase in demand for its services.
The charity is highlighting how continuing rises in the costs of essentials are disproportionately affecting those most in need, as Coventry South MP Zarah Sultana visited the St Giles Coventry HQ to see for herself the work of the Pantry team and meet staff and volunteers as well as families benefitting from the programme.
According to the ONS, the lowest-priced everyday grocery items have seen a notable variation in price change, with some items showing increases of over 15%. The items where the lowest prices rose at the fastest rate were pasta (up 50% between April 2021 and April 2022), bread (16%), minced beef (16%) and rice (15%).
St Giles says the increase will see more of the poorest local families turn to food hubs, as households across Coventry struggle with the brunt of the cost-of-living crisis, which has pushed up energy bills, rent prices and food costs. Concerns about food poverty are worrying concerns for many in the city, with almost a quarter of pupils (23%) eligible for free school meals, a rise from 17.8% in 2018, before the Pandemic.
The St Giles Pantry offers nutritious, healthy food in return for a subscription of £3.50 – and also offer expert advice and support on issues trapping clients in poverty. They offer a sustainable route out of poverty, with the aim of becoming become independent within six months.
Qualified St Giles staff offer advice and guidance services to people to help address debt, low paid employment, skills and training needs. Crucially, the staff all have direct experience of these issues themselves and are now employed by St Giles to help others make positive progress.
The Coventry Pantry also sources food that would otherwise go to waste. Food waste is a significant contributor to global warming and accounts for at least 8% of total global greenhouse gas emissions and in the UK alone more than 2 million tonnes of food is good-to-eat but it is thrown away.
Steve Clarke, St Giles West Midlands Regional Manager said:
“Increasing staple food prices combined with rising costs in energy is putting yet more pressure and strain on low-income households. The Pantry offers a sustainable model to help lower-income families and respond to overproduction. We’re delighted to be able to welcome Zarah to our hard-working hub and show her how we are really making a difference to vulnerable local families”
Zarah Sultana, Coventry South MP, said:
“I am so grateful to St Giles and their wonderful staff and volunteers, who are supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our city. The work they do at The Pantry is making a huge difference, helping to put food on the plates of Coventry families who would otherwise go hungry.”
Find out more about St Giles’s Pantry work here.