The cost-of-living crisis keeps hitting the headlines. Last month, one of the Bank of England economists Huw Pill explained on Columbia University’s podcast that Britons need to accept they are poorer this year. It caused outrage online, especially on Twitter, as people accused him of being out of touch with peoples’ struggles to make ends meet.
On a podcast or not, the cost-of-living crisis is a very fiery topic for conversation. Its consequences are still being felt up and down the country in various forms. The price of energy has soared, food inflation is still high (estimates of 16%) and rent is steadily increasing.
The UK’s most vulnerable households are having to choose whether to keep warm or to eat, which can only be described as a major failure on behalf of a neglectful government.
Considering real wages have not kept pace, many are struggling to see the positives.
Though many people feel overlooked by the government, there are activists on a mission to help them. We are seeing leading individuals and communities across the country coming together to try to tackle issues like food inequality, poor housing quality, and unaffordable rents.
Together against food inequality
Christina Adane, 19, is a food activist campaigning for free school meals in the UK and an active participant in the Bite Back 2030 organisation which was founded by Jamie Oliver and Nicolai Tangen. Her first efforts to raise awareness around free school meals kicked off with a petition against the withdrawal of their provision during the Covid-19 lockdown by the government. The raised awareness then inspired Marcus Rashford to kick off his own campaign which helped millions of vulnerable children.
With support and awareness raising since Covid-19, we are seeing a powerful movement today for more community solidarity.
Now working with the organisation Bite Back that aims to extend free school meals eligibility to 800,000 children, Adane also wants to improve national awareness around nutritional eating like the risks of junk food. Members of Bite Back are also working on interviewing children across the UK to find out what exactly they are eating at school, in hopes to influence government policy on extending eligibility of quality free school meals.
Across the country, one of the major resources tackling food inequality in the UK today are food banks. Research has found that almost 90% of food banks observed an increase in demand in December 2022 and January 2023 compared with a year earlier. Food inflation is a serious issue for households, especially those with young children.
Two organisations fighting food inequality locally
In Kent, the food project FEAST (Families Eating And Sharing Together) is a small food bank run by a group of people who want to help local families. They host hot lunches over the school holidays and run two community larders every week!
We encourage everyone to find out more about local food banks in their area or small projects like FEAST to support.
It is really important to show support for food banks, especially to keep the morale of the volunteers high. Burnout is very likely in such an environment where people feel as if they just cannot do enough for the people they want to help. In reports from The Guardian, Judith Vickers, from Lifeshare in Manchester said that volunteers are coping, but burnout occurs when the demand is relentless.
Lifeshare is a larger organisation which was founded in 1984 to tackle homelessness and food inequality. Every week it distributes breakfasts and hot meals to those who seek help. It also holds monthly fundraising campaigns to better redistribute resources.
Fighting back against unaffordable rents and poor living conditions
Kwajo Tweneboa, from South London, is campaigning for better housing conditions and helping other tenants ask for improvements from their housing association. Having just completed a business degree in Leicester, he is also holding important conversations with the government and organisations on tackling horrendous housing conditions. He hopes to see more social homes built in quality condition in the UK.
In Edinburgh, Aditi Jehanger is campaigning with Living Rent which aims to raise awareness about housing issues like overdue deposits and unaffordable rent prices. She hopes to see rent controls pushed forward and improvements to the housing system in Scotland.
Not solutions, but necessary steps that need support
Of course, one can be hesitant to call these initiatives ‘solutions’. The broken system should be fixed by the government, not by local volunteers and enterprises, but they are making the difference for the most vulnerable. The next general election as well as local elections are becoming increasingly important! For many, enough is enough and they are calling to kick the Tories out.
A small way to start getting involved with these community efforts would be to promote them to family and friends or over social media.
For many, talking about their rights as tenants, for example, can help them take action against their landlord. Shining a light on organisations, or individuals, trying to help people seek justice is an important community act as they represent a vital lifeline for many.