Help Exeter Food Action receive a £1,000 award!

The Benefact Group’s 2024 Movement for Good giving programme is open with awards of £1,000 for charities helping people in need. They have six £1,000 draws this year, so please consider nominating us early and we’ll be automatically included in all six, with the first winners announced on 2nd February. It only takes a moment via this link, or by clicking on the image below.

Thank you.

Movement for Good Award

A challenge-busting partnership with the Exeter Chiefs Foundation

For the many individuals and families struggling with the cost of living crisis, Christmas can be a particularly challenging time. It is for Exeter Food Action too because much of the surplus, festive food donated to us in the run up to Christmas comes just that little bit too late for us to get it to those very people in time for the big day.

Not knowing what we’re going to get, and when, makes planning almost impossible, and getting turkeys, christmas puddings and mince pies etc. a few days after the event can mean the enjoyment of what should be a day of celebration turns into one of disappointment, and even guilt and shame.

But thanks to a challenge-busting partnership with the Exeter Chiefs Foundation, who came to our rescue with a generous pre-Christmas grant of £10,000 to address this very challenge, we’re now able to distribute hundreds of festive meals, ensuring that people who might otherwise face a potentially miserable time, get to enjoy a proper Christmas Day, just like everyone else.

On Wednesday, with just five days to go, we were joined at our warehouse by celebrity chef Michael Caines, MBE, and Exeter Chiefs team members, full back and wing player, Josh Hodge, and scrum-half, Sam Maunder, all sharing their commitment to the partnership. Michael Caines spoke movingly of how vital it was to him and the Foundation, of which he’s a trustee, that our partnership gets to feed so many people at such an important time. And staff members, Elizabeth and Wendy, spoke of how delighted and grateful we are that the partnership enables us to get festive food onto the tables of the many people we support in time for Christmas.

We were also joined on the day by an ITV film crew and, in the clip below from our Twitter/X account (click to view), you can watch ITV Journalist of the Year 2018, Claire Manning, interviewing Michael, Josh, Sam, Elizabeth and Wendy.

Thanks to everyone involved, including all of our our amazing volunteers, who’ve helped us spread some real Christmas cheer, and particularly thanks to the Exeter Chiefs Foundation who made it all possible.

Winter 2023 newsletter

Exeter Food Action’s Winter 2023 newsletter is out, with the usual mix of recent EFA activity, the work and the partnerships we have and more, although in this issue there’s a sharper focus on support for the struggling families and individuals we support.  

Christmas is traditionally a time when families come together, and of giving and sharing, but we know it will be difficult for some, so we’ve tried to provide a balance between the usual news and updates, with information that some may find helpful in grappling with the challenges of the cost of living.

As ever, do let us know of anything you’d like to see covered in future issues, and do look out for the February edition of Devon Life Magazine, in which EFA will be featured.

Download your copy of our Winter 2023 newsletter via this link or by clicking on the image below.  

The Autumn Statement

Autumn statement illustration

The cost-of-living crisis has affected all of us but, for the many people who rely on the support provided by the food banks and community groups to which we deliver, making ends meet has been particularly challenging.

Research by the Trussell Trust has shown that the most significant cause of the financial insecurity that drives the need for food banks, is the design and delivery of the social security system. With 4 in 5 food bank users in receipt of some form of state support, what might be the impact for them of benefit changes announced in the Autumn Statement?

Many will welcome the Chancellor’s announcement on Wednesday that benefits for 2024-25 will rise, although there will be stricter sanctions for claimants who don’t look for work.

Universal Credit and other benefits to rise by 6.7%

Benefits for working-aged people will increase by 6.7% from April 2024, in line with September’s inflation rate. This will include Universal Credit (UC), means-tested benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

State Pension increased by 8.5%

The so-called triple lock, about which there had been pre-statement speculation that it may change, remains in place, with the announcement of an increase by 8.5%.

  • For anyone reaching state pension age before April 2016, their full weekly basic state pension will rise from £156.20 to £169.50.
  • For anyone on the full new state pension, from April 2024 their weekly payment will rise from £203.85 to £221.20.
  • Compared to 2023-24, over a year, a single person will receive £690 more and couples £1,104. People in receipt of the new state pension will get up to £902 more.

Changes to the Local Housing Allowance

The Local Housing Allowance (LHA), which differs depending on where claimants live and according to the number of people in a household, is used to calculate the rate of Housing Benefit (HB), or the housing element of UC for which tenants are eligible.

Bringing an end to the freeze on rates in place since 2020, the Chancellor announced that, from April 2024, although only until April 2025, there will be an increase in LHA to the 30th percentile of local rents. Effectively this means that, for recipients of HB, or the housing element of UC, they will be able to afford the cheapest 30% of homes, linked to the size of their household and to the rates in the area in which they live.

Changes to benefit assessments

The Chancellor announced changes to work capability assessments (WCAs), which will now consider if people are able to work from home, the intent being to lower the number of people accepted for disability benefits.

Assessments will consider the impact that a claimant’s physical and mental health has on their ability to work. For people who an assessor thinks capable of doing physical work, they will then automatically be considered a job seeker and required to prove they are actively looking for work.

Although better employment support for people living with physical, mental ill health or disability, but who are ready to return to work, is viewed as a good investment, there are concerns by some organisations that the changes announced could herald the imposition of unnecessarily punitive sanctions. 

After a year without finding a job, for example, people claiming UC will face a mandatory work placement to ‘increase their skills and improve employability’. For anyone facing an ‘open-ended sanction’ for more than six months, benefits will be stopped entirely, and their case closed, leading to a loss of entitlement to free NHS prescriptions and legal aid.

Today’s announcement of an increase in benefits in line with inflation and an end to the freeze on LHA will undoubtedly ease some of the pressures driving millions of people to food banks. For some, however, the impact of unnecessarily harsh sanctions, which many charities and campaigners fear, will be less welcome.

The full 2023 Autumn Statement and related documents can be viewed on the website via this link.

EFA’s Tree-Decorating Task Force

Earlier this week, as Storm Debi blew in, EFA’s tree-decorating task force assembled beneath ours, part of the 11th Princesshay Charity Christmas Tree Festival, where 35 trees will be lit this evening.

As we decorated our tree, storm Debi’s gathering force roared into the centre, turning our spot into a wind tunnel – the wind’s equivalent of rapids. At times we had to hold on to keep it standing, and us from being blown away.

But despite the challenges, the task force excelled, and we now have an impressively dressed tree. Although other trees are available, we think that ours stands out from the crowd.

Huge thanks to everyone involved, especially volunteer, Dave Turner, who balanced valiantly on a ladder that Debi tried hard to blow over. And a huge thank you to Mitch Siviter, activities coordinator at Exeter care home, Alexander House. Mitch enabled us not only to adorn our tree with hanging fruit and other food, but to top it with a team of reindeer pulling a beautifully constructed model of a food delivery van, reaching towards the heavens. Thanks, Mitch, for the icing on the cake!

Princesshay Christmas Tree
Exeter Food Action's Christmas Tree

Thursday evening, our lights finally turned on.
Courtesy Wendy Kearns (Tree-decorating Task Force Commander).

The King’s Coronation Food Project

It’s King Charles’s 75th birthday today and, as part of the celebrations, he’s launched a venture to help mitigate the growing national crisis of food poverty, the King’s Coronation Food Project.

In a birthday interview with the Big Issue, he voices his concerns about cost of living pressures, lamenting the fact that so many families and individuals are missing out on nutritious meals. Referring to the millions of tonnes of food that go to waste, he commits his project to creating a lasting legacy to help others – and help the planet.

With his initiative’s ambitions chiming so well with the work of Exeter Food Action over many years, his voice is a welcome addition to those of the many organisations challenging food poverty and waste. It doesn’t get much better than having the King of the Land helping to raise awareness and committing resources to the work in which we and so many others are engaged.

With the project’s commitment to expanding warehouses, fridges, freezers, vans and drivers, fast tracking the transit of food to communities in need and the considerable resources at its disposal, we’ll be keeping a close eye on developments.

King Charles III - Big Issue cover

Movement for Good Awards

This year we’ve delivered more good quality, nutritious food than ever before, supporting nearly sixty food banks and community groups in Exeter and across Devon, getting food onto the tables of people who need it.

Obviously, just as demand has increased, so have our costs, and we’d like any visitors to our website to consider nominating us for a Movement for Good Award. Doing so only takes a minute and, if enough people do, we stand a good chance of winning £1,000, which will be a tremendous help to us at the moment. Nominations are open until 17.12.23.

Please spare a moment to nominate us, which is easily done by clicking on the Movement for Good Awards image below.

Thank you.

Movement for Good Awards

An EFA, Park Life & Refugee Support Devon partnership

Park Life Heavitree is a community group that brings people together in and around Exeter’s Heavitree Pleasure Ground. In September 2023, through a partnership with Exeter Food Action, a local allotment and Refugee Support Devon, Park Life began offering a space where asylum seekers can cook culturally sensitive food with fresh ingredients, which they can take back to their families at the hotel where they’re housed, which prohibits them from cooking on site. Food provided to the hotel by a contractor has been described by local councillors as ‘unappetising’ and ‘lacking variety’.  

The project, which runs every 2 weeks, is supported by local volunteers and Park Life staff. Sessions have been very popular, with a lot of positive feedback on how much people enjoy attending. Volunteers support the set up and running of the afternoons, as well as a small area for pre-school children who attend with their parents.

Anyone interested in participating or volunteering for the project should contact k. Similarly, anyone interested in volunteering for Exeter Food Action can find out more via this link.

A Park Life project participant cooking

And the winner is ….

As reported in a September news item, Exeter Food Action is now a recipient of funds raised through the Exeter Community Lottery. From every £1 ticket purchased, which buys a line of potentially lucky numbers, 60p goes to local good causes, and we’re one of them.

On Saturday 28th October, for example, an Exeter resident matched 4 numbers and won £250.00. With a top prize of £25,000, and every ticket having a 1 in 50 chance of winning, the odds of a win are better than with the National Lottery.

Please consider participating if you can and, at the same time, supporting Exeter Food Action. Simply head over to our Exeter Community Lottery page and click on ‘Buy Tickets’.

It could be you, and it could be us – good luck!