The Evening Standard Christmas campaign broke through the £1 million mark on Tuesday , thanks to a £500,000 donation from Sainsbury’s to help us tackle rising food insecurity across the country.
It came as West Ham United Football Club backed our Winter Survival Appeal in partnership with Comic Relief, with star strikers Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio visiting the Felix Project in Poplar. The Sainsbury’s donation will be split between two of our chosen charities, the Felix Project and FareShare, the biggest surplus food distributors in London and the UK respectively.
Ruth Cranston, Sainsbury’s director of corporate responsibility and sustainability, said: “We are aware how difficult times are for many people, especially through the colder months and so, for the second year in a row we are supporting the Evening Standard and Comic Relief appeal. We are working to tackle food poverty and support communities in need through our Nourish the Nation programme and our donation will support our partners FareShare and the Felix Project to provide the equivalent of 1.5 million meals to communities facing food insecurity across Britain.”
Bowen and Antonio put on aprons over West Ham tracksuits to help prepare hot meals for the hungry. As instructed by Felix chef Ali Shanavas, Antonio added sprinkles of spinach to a giant industrial-sized pan cooking chicken curry which he stirred with a paddle, and then he and Bowen began packing some of the 4,500 ready-to-eat meals produced by the Felix Project social kitchen every single day. “These are quality ingredients,” said Antonio. “With the cost of living crisis going on and more hungry kids than ever, we need more charities like this. To turn out nearly 5,000 meals a day — that’s massive.”
Bowen added: “What Felix does — taking food that would otherwise end in the bin and turning it into healthy meals for those who need it — is brilliant. A quarter of working families in London struggle to feed their families. That should not be happening in this day and age. West Ham United is a true community club and that is why we are proud to support the Evening Standard and Comic Relief.”
This year Felix is on course to deliver 33 million meals to 1,100 organisations — more than five times the six million meals they supplied before the pandemic in 2019. It comes from over 12,600 tons of perfectly good-to-eat produce that they recover — and that would otherwise be thrown away as waste.
Charlotte Hill, CEO of the Felix Project, said: “Demand is through the roof with 90 per cent of the organisations we supply seeing significant increases in need this year and another 600 groups on our waiting list. We have also seen a big change in demographic, with low-paid Londoners, including key workers in hospitals and schools, among those struggling to feed their families.”
One organisation supplied by the Felix Project is the Southside Rehabilitation Association in west Norwood, south London, a social enterprise that provides a daily hot meal and conversation for around 35 people with mental health problems. “For a lot of our users, this is the only hot meal they eat in a day,” said Julie El-Bahrawy, CEO of Southside. Jenny, 51, from Peckham, a mother of four who suffers anxiety and depression and lives on her own, said: “The only support I’ve got is here. I come three times a week because I am £500 in debt and with rising bills, I only have £25 a week for food to live on, so this hot lunch helps me get by. This Christmas will be tough. I’ll be at home but I can’t afford a special meal. I can’t even afford to put on the heating. I will wrap myself in a blanket and eat tinned sardines.” Cradling her plate of jerk chicken and rice and wiping away tears, she added: “I’ve heard of people my age stealing food, but I would rather go to bed hungry. I’ve lost about a stone. If it wasn’t for this place, I probably wouldn’t be alive. They’ve been a rock for me.”
Another charity supported by the Felix Project is the Food Chain, a group that provides a weekly hot lunch and get-together for up to 30 people living with HIV and in poverty at a location in east London. “If you are living with HIV, you need to eat well to manage the side effects of the medication,” said Anna Brewster, director of services at the Food Chain. “We’re the UK’s only specialist HIV nutrition charity. We used to have a diverse base but since the cost of living crisis, we’ve seen a big shift and food insecurity has become a big issue facing our users.”
Lora (not her real name), 64, tucking into a bacon quiche, is a case in point. She said: “I got a job as a part-time carer but it meant they cut my benefits and last month, after paying council tax and energy, I had just £5 left for food. That’s why I am here. I come here on a Wednesday and I go to another food bank on a Thursday. That’s how I survive. My fridge is empty, I have no money in my purse, it’s scary. Without this place, I don’t know what would have happened to me.”
Another patron, John, 49, who lives in a cold basement flat in Islington after being made redundant, said: “My life reminds me of how our grandparents lived in the Second World War, constantly on the edge and with a sense of portending disaster. Since my partner died of Covid three years ago, I feel more vulnerable. This place, for me it’s more than food, it’s my community.”
At West Silvertown Foundation near City Airport, which only recently got supplied by Felix after a year on the waiting list, community development co-ordinator Pietro Fioretta said: “Half our clientele are asylum-seekers who live in hotels and get served rice and chips for every meal. The other half are local people in poverty. Some worked their whole life and are retired but can’t afford to provide for themselves, so having Felix provide fresh produce is a huge pick-me-up. They look with wonder at the rhubarb and pineapple and discuss with excitement how they might cook it. For them it’s a game-changer.”
How you can help
£10 could provide a nourishing meal for a Londoner every day for a month
£20 could provide a duvet and pillow to a young person helping them sleep at night
£50 could contribute to a new school uniform for a child fleeing with a parent from an abusive relationship
£100 could provide 400 meals for families at a local community centre
£300 could pay for all that’s needed by a family expecting a baby, including new cot, mattress and pram
£1,750 could get a truck packed with enough food for 7,000 meals
In a nutshell
We have partnered with Comic Relief to launch our Winter Survival Appeal Christmas Campaign, with Comic Relief pledging £500,000 to kick off our fund. The money we raise will help fund charities in London and across the country helping people who are struggling with the cost of living crisis
To make a donation, visit comicrelief.com/wintersurvival