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For many people, the Christmas Day dinner is the big event of the holiday season – the roast meat, copious amounts of side dishes, and not forgetting a pudding and drink to wash it all down with! But, this isn’t realistic for many people this year, as millions of households are struggling under the effects of the cost of living crisis. 

The Department of Work and Pensions published that for the year 2021/2022, 2.1 million people in the UK lived in a household which had used a food bank within the last 12 months. A YouGov survey by the Food Foundation, a food poverty charity, found that in June 2023, 17.0% of households in the UK were ‘food insecure’ (ate less or went a day without eating because they couldn’t access or afford food), up from 8.8% in January 2022.  

The Trussell Trust has just under 1,400 food banks in the UK, and between April 2022 and March 2023, they distributed close to 3 million emergency food parcels – the most parcels they have ever distributed by the network in a year. It’s clear that this Christmas, even more people will be struggling with the cost of food in comparison to previous years, with the cost of necessities still rising.  

Food vouchers 

According to Money Wellness, thousands of low-income families are set to get free food vouchers this Christmas, and could receive up to £60 per child, depending on the local council’s policy. The vouchers can be spent at most major supermarkets, and families will receive their vouchers from either their child’s school or nursery. If you don’t receive yours by the start of the Christmas holidays and you think you’re eligible, you should contact your school or nursery directly. 

Food banks 

If you are really struggling this Christmas to cover the cost of food, food banks can offer you a food parcel. You will usually need a referral from official sources like your child’s school, a doctor, social worker, or your local Citizen’s Advice.  

The Trussell Trust can help you to find your nearest food bank, as well as the Independent Food Aid Network, which has a map of over 1,000 independent food banks across the UK. You will usually need to collect the food parcel from the food bank, but if you do live rurally, sometimes they will be able to deliver. 

Free supermarket food 

If you are more than 10 weeks pregnant, or caring for at least one child under 4, you might be entitled to the Healthy Start Scheme. If you are eligible, you will be provided with a Healthy Start card with money on it, to use in UK shops, that will be topped up every 4 weeks. You will be able to buy: 

  • Plain liquid cow’s milk 
  • Fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables 
  • Fresh, dried, and tinned pulses 
  • Infant formula milk based on cow’s milk 

You can also use your card to collect: 

  • Healthy Start vitamins – to support you during pregnancy and breastfeeding 
  • Vitamin drops for babies and young children – suitable from birth to 4 years old 

Other useful resources and places of support 

  • Foodcycleoffers completely free hot meals to anyone who needs, on a weekly basis. No referral needed. 
  • Salvation Army – are providing Christmas lunches for people living alone, and food parcels to anyone who is struggling to afford a Christmas dinner.  
  • Feeding Britain – is a charity with a number of initiatives to help people access free or low-cost food and meals. 
  • Money Wellness Benefits Calculator – if you are struggling to cover day-to-day costs, such as food, you should check you are claiming all the financial help you’re entitled to. 
  • Trussell Trust – has just under 1,400 food banks in the UK. 
  • Food Aid Network – has a map of all the independent food networks in the UK. 
  • Money Wellness – Advice on Christmas food vouchers, debt and money advice. 

Please note, if you are struggling to cover the cost of food this Christmas, or at any other time in the year, it is important you seek help and speak to your local council about what funding is available to you. Please visit Gov to get your council’s details and ask for more information. 

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