Challenge Poverty Week: Helping Families Cook

As we remain at home with the nights drawing in and no end to COVID-19 and it’s harsh restrictions in sight, I’m doubly grateful to be working from a home that’s warm & dry. I’m not stressed about the washing machine, the tumble dryer and all the other essential household goods and whether we can turn them on when we need them.

When I think about what winter might mean for my family and loved ones I know that our isolation and exhaustion with all that is going on around us will be relieved with home cooked food to cheer us and to keep us strong and healthy. Food has come to mean so much for us as our social lives are curtailed and our opportunities for eating and drinking restricted. It’s the fuel that provides comfort and connections, bolsters our immunity and provides us with a social moment in a kitchen or around a table. For those of us who can afford the energy to cook.

For fuel poor households the choices have rarely been starker. Heating or eating. Laptops, chargers and lights to support homeworking and school working or hot water for baths and showers are growing demands. For fuel poor households this winter may be the worst one yet as community centres remain shut. Family and friends will be unable to provide respite as social restrictions continue and support services are likely to be overstretched.

For many, food banks are an essential lifeline. It is estimated by the Trussell Trust that there will be a 61% increase in demand for foodbanks this winter compared to last year. Foodbanks are seeing an increase in the demand for ‘cold packs’ which demonstrates the devastating level of need across Scotland. A cold pack is a food package that doesn’t require cooking and that such a thing is needed in 2020 is a national disgrace.

We know that time is running out to help these desperate families this winter. Over 26% of all households in Scotland suffer from fuel poverty in cold, damp, leaky homes that affect the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable in society. Almost 2500 more people die each winter than in the summer months, many living in poor quality conditions with not enough money to live a basic, comfortable life.

250,000 households in Scotland live in extreme fuel poverty, spending over 20% of their income or simply having to ration or self-disconnect their energy.

Can we solve this in one fell swoop? I wish, I so wish. But there is something we want to do now that can make a difference. Perhaps a small difference but a real one. We want to provide to as many struggling families as we can with a low energy programmable pressure cooker to cut their cooking costs by up to 50%. We will help them get to grips with the cooker and provide recipes to enable them to produce low cost, warm, nutritious meals.

At over £50, a programmable pressure cooker is simply out of the reach of hard pressed families. Yet over the course of a year this could half their energy costs for cooking. Help us to help them have affordable nutritious warm food this winter. A real hand up...not a hand out.

Hot food help for families

Frazer Scott, CEO of Energy Action Scotland