This week the Chancellor presented his Autumn Statement with little mention of the cost of living crisis and its effect on millions of low-income families.
Rates of food insecurity in households with children have doubled in the last 18 months; food prices have increased by 25% and energy prices are through the roof, why then so little sign of action to address this?
As a community hub, in an economically deprived and geographically isolated area with high levels of poor health, we know people of all ages face ongoing challenges with the increased cost of living. These challenges around food and fuel poverty follow the damaging effects of the Covid pandemic.
We plan to provide and expand critical services to address challenges over Winter 2023, continuing the growth and extending the impact of our Community Grocery; offering free or low cost food to Higher Folds residents.
We will continue working with local suppliers to source more high quality, low cost surplus food and household goods. This surplus would otherwise have gone to landfill; and will enable us offer an increasing amount of food to people in need helping them to properly feed themselves and families.
The items will be available in our Community Grocery and importantly, for home delivery. Demand for this is increasing; 35 people in 2019 to 200+ weekly in mid-2023. These challenges are increasing as there is increasing demand to feed children in our 0-2 year olds sessions and early years nursery, many children clearly aren’t eating properly or regularly. Our data shows a six-fold increase in 4 years. Plus a vast increase in the number of Wigan Council food vouchers; redeemed in our Grocery. 450+ monthly. Trialled successfully during Covid, we will continue to offer home delivery of a hot meal and food hampers for the housebound.
Recent surveys of people visiting the Grocery, at the local school and doctor’s surgery confirmed the growth of food and fuel poverty. Addressing fuel poverty challenges (using advisors from Southport Food Bank and United Utilities to train 2 volunteers) we will run free sessions to residents offering fuel and financial management advice. The volunteers will disseminate the information across Higher Folds.
Highlighting the need for fuel poverty support in Winter 2022; 100+ people used the Householder Club at the Centre to make savings on energy and household costs.
We will also be extending our warm space programme to increase activities and opportunities for residents in fuel and food poverty. Partnering with Wigan Council we will continue the “warm space” project we first delivered in Winter 2022/23. Learning from last year’s exercise; we will provide a warm welcoming space, delivered by 2 part-time staff with volunteers; with food available from tea and toast to a hearty breakfast or mid-day meal. Visitors can attend activities including: social bingo, art group and film sessions. In addition; Kerry’s Corner; with a book library and knitting, sewing, crafting and digital skills with Wigan Council and the Good Things Foundation.
We are always keen to explore new opportunities, to expand our range of services and to help the Higher Folds community as best we can.