The Bevan Foundation has found that more than half of households have seen their food costs increase during the cost of living crisis. In January 2022, the foundation also found that one million adults across the UK went without food for one day due to costs.
Families experiencing financial difficulties often have to make difficult decisions between affording rent or food. Housing associations are helping to combat food insecurity in various ways - such as providing food bank vouchers, and working with community groups to set up local food pantries. This work has progressed recently as these organisations look at ensuring food security, rather than addressing insecurity when it arises.
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Melin Homes provides invaluable food vouchers
Melin Homes has supplied over £50,000 in fuel and food vouchers. This is invaluable for tenants as it provides immediate support when they are in hardship as the vouchers can be text or emailed.
The housing association then works with tenants to address the root causes of their negative budget to find sustainable ways to reduce their reliance on food and fuel vouchers.
Llantwit Major food access project - Newydd Housing Association
Newydd Housing Association supports the Llantwit Major Food Access Project, which was created to make healthy food affordable and accessible for all homes across the area. Working in partnership with other community organisations, NHS and local councils, the project also investigates the reasons associated with why some people and families may not be able to have a good meal every day.
BwydDa Cafe - Adra
In Bangor, Adra supports the Bwyd Da cafe, which coordinates foodbank distribution in the city and distributes waste food from supermarkets. This project is primarily funded through Public Health Wales and Gwynedd Council.
Tŷ Pantri - Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association
Tŷ Pantri is Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association’s door-to-door food delivery initiative that provides affordable access to fresh fruit and vegetables, and dry and tinned goods.
The pandemic presented challenging times for the people of Merthyr Tydfil, with many being furloughed and others shielding. Most struggled to access affordable nutritious food, with big supermarkets insisting on delivery of goods for orders over £30. Realising that most tenants and the wider community could not afford this, Tŷ Pantri was launched.
Tŷ Pantri serves customers through a door-to-door food delivery service. Working with fruit and vegetable wholesalers (Michael Browns), as well as Fareshare Cymru, the project provides food parcels and bags at cost price. And, working with a local trusted partner - the H Factor - the project can deliver the goods across the borough.
Due to the cost of living crisis, many people are now being forced to choose between heating and eating - but Tŷ Pantri remains a lifeline to households. Customers have shared how important the food initiative has been to them in recent months:
“The service that you are providing is helping us significantly as a family. Even though I am not your tenant, you treat me as I am and help me so much with this.
“As a house, we have never been in this position before, where we are both now out of work, and how this has hit our family finances. This pantry is a godsend to us. Through you and Hope, we can afford to eat and have a balanced diet with it.
“We get better value for money with you because we have a greater choice with your essential boxes, and of course, your fruit and veg is fresh on the day. If ever I can volunteer to help make the project happen please let me know.”
“I wouldn’t know what I would do without this, it’s a huge help to me. And you’re the only person I see on a Thursday. Thank you.”
The housing association attributes the success of Tŷ Pantri to working in unison with like-minded organisations whose vision is to reduce inequalities within communities.
Fit and Fed - Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association
Fit and Fed Merthyr Tydfil was established in 2018 through ICF funding via the local health board. Working in partnership with the local youth service, third sector youth organisations and Street Games Wales, skills were pooled to develop a school holidays programme that would provide free access to enriching activities, and a healthy nutritional meal at the end of each session.
With Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association (MTHA) leading project management, and others providing facilities and workers, eight Fit and Fed sites were initially established across the borough. In the first financial year of the project, 159 sessions were provided; 748 different children and young people engaged; and 2,230 meals provided. This rose to 848 children and young people, 182 sessions and 2,358 meals in the second financial year that the project ran.
Following this high interest in the scheme and the relief it brought to families, MTHA applied for National Lottery Community Fund funding to extend the project to up to 15 sites across the borough. When writing the application, the team says that they never in a hundred years thought that they would be facing the current cost of living crisis.
Fit and Fed is now a sanctuary for many families in the area. Since April 2022, the scheme has expanded to 14 sites, with most children and young people being within walking distance to a site.
One Pot Wonders from Helping Working Families and partners - Bron Afon
Families feeling the pinch of the cost of living crisis told Bron Afon they were keen to find out more about cooking healthy family meals on a budget.
Volunteers from Bron Afon’s Big Lottery funded project, Helping Working Families, picked up on this feedback and decided to do something about it.
With support from Cwmbran’s Tasty Not Wasty - a not-for-profit group aiming to cut food waste - and Newport and Ebbw Vale’s Cook Stars (who offer fun and affordable cooking classes for children) the volunteers came up with the idea of One Pot Wonders. These are healthy, delicious meals based on simple, cheap and cheerful recipes that working parents can learn easily and make with their children.
During a six-week scheme, families learned to cook some of these dishes, including chilli con carne, chicken noodles, spring rolls, stuffed peppers and vegetable pasta. As an end of project treat, they also learned how to make desserts as treats for Christmas, including fruit crumble, tiramisu and cheesecake.
Kristina and Rhian have been volunteers with Helping Working Families since the group began. Their positive experiences from being part of the One Pot Wonders project
have come from not only learning new cooking skills but also the boost it’s given to their confidence and wellbeing.
Kristina said: "It’s trying new things with your family. Before, I was scared to use new ingredients with the children but One Pot Wonders has helped us to do that.
“Getting out and about and involved in the project has really benefited my wellbeing as well. It's been brilliant to make new friends.”
Rhian said: “We've followed different recipes every week using food from food banks, which is so important as it makes the meals we make affordable.
“This has been probably one of the best groups I’ve ever been in. My confidence has grown so much and it’s helped a lot with my mental health.”
At the end of the project, Bron Afon gave each of the volunteers an air fryer to thank them for their commitment and contribution to making it such a success.