With Christmas only a few weeks away, charity St Giles is concerned that increased pressures on the cost of living, will mean more people than ever will need the support of food hubs to avoid struggling to eat over the festive period.
The increasing cost of living is hitting less-well off families hard, with recent inflation figures painting a grim picture. According to the ONS, The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) recently rose by 4.2%, the highest 12-month inflation rate for ten years1. Increased costs across food, transport and housing have led to 2.4 million children living in food insecure households in the UK and lower income families facing a shortfall of £31 a week just to stay afloat this Christmas.
As household budgets are cut to the bone, St Giles is therefore urging people to donate the money normally spent buying on a weekly cappuccino to help people affected by food poverty this Christmas. The recent cut to Universal Credit has disproportionately affected the most disadvantaged, vulnerable people in our society. For St Giles’s clients, this represents a 20-25% drop in their weekly income at a time of rising prices for all essential goods.
The charity runs a network of food Pantries in London, Leeds and Coventry to help families who are struggling to make ends meet – offering 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.
All members accessing London Pantries have said that being a part of the Pantry has positively improved their finances. On average, members feel they save £30 per week, with 93% of members saying the Pantry has improved their physical health and 96% of residents now feel more connected to their community.
Qualified St Giles staff are based at each Pantry offering 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.
Across St Giles services, teams also help people facing insecure housing and homelessness. This is tough work at a time when there is a dire shortage of affordable accommodation for people across the UK but particularly for those living in London.
St Giles is therefore asking people to use the few pounds normally spent on weekly trips to the coffee shop to help support those who are now struggling, so that clients and their families stay warm and well-nourished this Christmas. A single donation of one £3.50 coffee alone will help feed a family for up to three days, while a donation of £10 could give a family access to peer support to end food dependency.
St Giles Patron, Jenny Agutter OBE, said:
“Christmas 2021 is going to be a tough time for most of us, but families who have been hit by the cut to Universal Credit and the surge in fuel and food costs will be suffering the hardest. Our message is simple, why not swap one of your festive coffees for a donation to help us support even more distressed families. You could help a parent in real need and your gift will be appreciated and have a lasting impact.”
St Giles chief executive Rob Owen, said:
“Christmas is supposed to be time for family celebration and joy, but with incomes cut to the bone, for too many people it’s becoming tougher and tougher to keep heads above water. We know many people want to help their local communities at this time of year. That’s why we’re asking people to donate to our campaign, so we can help families facing stark choices around whether to buy food, heating or presents for children.”