On one of Liverpool's most famous streets, two main issues are top of the agenda

It's a baking summer's day on Liverpool's Lodge Lane and Mo Younis is gathering stock ahead of what he hopes will be a good day of business.

Mo runs the increasingly popular Falafel Chef business, which operates out of a shipping container on one of the city's most vibrant and diverse streets.

After a tricky start, the Lodge Lane container village is now bustling with independent businesses offering food from all over the world. Mo, aged 30, is pleased with how his middle eastern vegan wraps are selling.

"So far so good," he says, discussing his fledgling business. "I have been told we are the highest rated in Liverpool on Just Eat, so that's very good."

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"It has been awesome. There has been lots of support from the local community. I have been doing offers because I want to give something back for how much support they gave me."

While Mo is pleased with how his business is going, he has noticed those around him in this community are struggling.

"The cost of living has been hard for people," he explains. "It is really affecting people, especially after the pandemic. I started with really cheap prices, then I put them up a little bit, but I had to knock it down because people were ordering less.

"People used to make an average order of £10, now they just get the minimum. The cost of living is affecting people, although we are doing well as a business."

With a general election now just a couple of weeks away, the cost of living appears to be one major issue on the minds of the people of Lodge Lane and Liverpool 8. But many people's minds are also on what is taking place thousands of miles away from this city in the Middle East.

Mo Younis feels this more personally than most, he is from the Gaza strip in Palestine. He and his family left the area years ago and moved to Egypt, but he finds the level of death and misery being experienced by his home country right now hard to bear.

"It is stressful for me because I am from Gaza. It has been crazy since the war started. In Lodge Lane and in Liverpool in general, the community has been really supportive. But it just feels like there is nothing you can do.

"When the war started I was watching the news, but I had to stop because it was affecting my mental health watching people dying every day," he explains. "The whole situation is so stressful. I am trying to focus on my business."

"Luckily my mum and my siblings are out of Gaza. They are safe. I know many others are not."

Mo continued: "The Palestine situation has been like this for a long time. I think people are understanding it more now. I hope it is going to end."

The young businessman had not intended to live in Liverpool for the long-term, having come here initially only for an English language course. But when he lost his job in Egypt and had his visa rejected, he had to stay and was granted refugee status.

"I couldn't go back to Egypt and I couldn't go back to Palestine." he explains. "So I stayed here and set up my business. This is a lovely city and a really friendly place. I love Scouse people, they are the most polite and the funniest - and I love the accent."

But despite his love for Liverpool, Mo says it is hard not to feel powerless thinking about his home country. "There is nothing I can do from my position here apart from praying for people at home to have better lives," he explains.

Further down Lodge Lane, there are a group of people who are also hoping to help improve people's lives.

The Fans Supporting Foodbanks group, known for collecting food for those who need it outside Liverpool and Everton games, are running their weekly pantry in the Tiber Square area.

With the sun shining and music blasting out, there is a positive vibe in the square - but bubbling beneath the surface is a major issue that Mo Younis referred to earlier. People are struggling.

"This place should not be needed in this day and age," explains volunteer Andrea Perry, who lives in the local area.

"We are not a food bank, we are a food pantry. But we have people who work coming here. Everyone is struggling with the cost of living. We have NHS nurses coming here for their food.

"We get roughly 100 people every Thursday coming here," she adds. "It is sad when you see the same people coming again and again. This should not be happening in 2024 in this country."

Looking ahead to the election, Andrea adds: "People are properly struggling. I hope we get rid of the Tories and Labour get through and make a change."

While there is naturally no love for the Conservatives in this area, there is frustration from some with the position of the Labour Party, who look set to form the next government after July 4.

The party has drawn particular criticism for its refusal to pledge to scrap the existing two-child benefit cap, which means that benefit claimants do not receive additional support for their third child or any subsequent children. It is estimated lifting this cap would cost £1.3 billion and would instantly lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.

In the areas in and around Lodge Lane, such a move is badly needed.

The Toxteth Park ward is the worst-affected area of Liverpool for child poverty, where devastatingly, more than two in three children are living below the breadline. The neighbouring ward of Princes Park has 55% kids living in poverty.

"I think it is absolutely shameful that an incoming Labour government is refusing to scrap the two-child limit," says an impassioned Robbie Daniels, who along with Dave Kelly and Ian Byrne, launched the Fans Supporting Foodbanks network.

Running the operation in Tiber Square today, Robbie adds: "I want to see massively more from Labour to deal with poverty - but it just isn't happening at the moment."

Discussing the growing need for groups like his, he adds: "We are rapidly approaching our 1,000th pantry. We do these all over the city and we have been doing this for four years now. In that time we have fed somewhere in the region of 480,000 people - and it has got worse and worse.

"The country is on its knees, especially where food poverty and child poverty are concerned. We see it everyday and it is scandalous."

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