Our FOOD clubs attract people for lots of reasons, whether that’s because of financial concerns, reducing food waste or connecting with their community. As Christmas fast approaches, we visited our FOOD clubs to speak to ordinary families about why it’s important to them and what the cost of living crisis means for them this winter.
The cost of food
Speaking to people at our clubs the first thing that becomes apparent is how nearly everyone is affected by the current crisis. The cost of food is never far from people’s lips, with mum and grandparent Kay telling us that “I’ve just got to make sure I’ve got enough for myself; I won’t cook a turkey or anything this year… It will just be turkey slices”. Mum Samantha is even more explicit about the cost of the traditional Christmas turkey, saying simply “Meat? What’s meat? In the old days you could afford meat”.
Heating and bills
Once the rent and the bills have come out and we’ve paid the council tax, gas, electric… There’s nothing more. – Barry, Dad
Despite the focus on food it is clear that this isn’t the only concern for families, as many of our FOOD club members speak about the costs involved in running their houses – like parent Barry, who tells us “Once the rent and the bills have come out and we’ve paid the council tax, gas, electric… There’s nothing more”. We hear that it’s a common problem, with Mandy adding “that’s happening across the country – I know people who can’t afford to put their heating on”.
How it feels to cut back on present buying
The research we conducted this Christmas tells us that one in seven of us won’t be able to buy presents for our children this Christmas, and the parents attending our FOOD clubs bring this statistic into stark reality. Kay tells us simply that her family don’t get presents, and “that’s just because I don’t have the money; I used to be able to buy them but not anymore”. Barry says he finds the situation extremely difficult, and that he is drumming it into his kids that they won’t be getting presents this Christmas. He adds that he and his wife are “trying to make them understand that the roof over their heads is the best gift of all”.
The emotional impact of the cost of living
I’ve sat in the car and cried before because I don’t know how I’m going to make it. I’ll have a bowl of cereal for dinner so the kids can eat well – Hayley, Mum
When we talk about statistics they can sound dry – even when our survey shows that more than half of people think it will affect their mental health this year – and the human stories that reflect this reality are heartbreaking; stories like mum Hayley, who tells us that: “I’ve sat in the car and cried before because I don’t know how I’m going to make it. I’ll have a bowl of cereal for dinner so the kids can eat well”.
Kindness through adversity
Although many of the people we’ve spoken to have said their situations are difficult they have also told us that it hasn’t stopped them contributing to their wider community. Hayley, mentioned above, is no different, telling us that “ridiculously we still do shoeboxes of items for children in other countries. My daughter picks one for a little girl and my son a boy, and they send it off. There are always people that are worse off, and It’s good to teach the kids that it’s nice to give to others”.
Why the January sales are so important
I buy for Christmas all year. I don’t have any choice. All the money I’m saving on my food by using the FOOD club will be going on presents, which is why it’s massively helpful – Hayley, Mum
In Hayley’s case she told us that she’d bought most of her gifts for this year in last year’s sales, noting that her children would be happy with whatever they received, and she wasn’t alone, with Samantha adding that: “I buy for Christmas all year. I don’t have any choice. All the money I’m saving on my food by using the FOOD club will be going on presents, which is why it’s massively helpful”.
How our FOOD clubs help with the cost of living
Our FOOD clubs provide low-cost, nutritious food for a small membership fee and weekly contribution, and many people we spoke to agreed with Samantha that this was a lifesaver for them. However, the other word that is used most to describe their benefit is community. Attendees such as Margaret tell us that, having lost her beloved husband, she enjoys the company at the clubs. She says: “There’s real banter here, and all of us look forward to it, not just me”.
It’s a recurring theme, with some people telling us they don’t see anybody else during the week other than during the time they visit the club, and others speaking about bringing their children down. One volunteer told us that “you get to know people and we have a good community – It’s a way to escape for me from the stresses of life”.
Despite it all…
Despite the gloomy predictions for this Christmas people still tell us they’re looking forward to it, highlighting the value of family and friendship. Some people say they will be sharing Christmas dinner by inviting over other FOOD club members, while others highlight that parenthood is enough of a reward to outweigh the struggles caused by the crisis. Barry puts it best when he says that he realises how much he adores his wife and children during the season, saying: “The family come together at Christmas, and when I see them round the table, I know how blessed I am to have them”.
This Christmas we’re offering a sleigh load of practical and emotional support to families through our FOOD clubs, financial grants, FamilyLine, and our Christmas Toy Appeal. By supporting our ‘Make Theirs Magic’ campaign, you can give a special gift that will bring Christmas cheer to a family having a tough time. Together, we can keep the magic of Christmas alive.