You can’t bleed a stone, I can’t give you what I haven’t got,” said Kayleigh. The single mother of two, who owes over £500 to her energy provider and faces the debt being handed over to a collection agency, was trying to put a brave face on how she is coping with the escalating cost of living.
“Everything is going up, even staples,” she said. “Pasta has risen eight pence in the past week alone. Even though it’s just 8p, it adds up and after rent and basic bills, you’re left with nothing.” The 27-year-old from south London added that she has lost weight recently because of skipping meals.
In the midst of this rising hardship, the one place Kayleigh can count on for respite is the London Early Years Foundation, a social enterprise that provides affordable early years education, especially to children in need.
The foundation runs 39 nurseries across the capital of which five offer food banks as well, including their centre in Burgess Park in Peckham where Kayleigh sends her four-year-old daughter.
The London Early Years Foundation is one of the community organisations that will be eligible to benefit from our On the Breadline Christmas appeal via our partnership with The Childhood Trust, which funds groups helping disadvantaged children and their families in London.
Our joint appeal with sister title The Independent has also partnered with Comic Relief.
Staff at the nursery started the food bank after noticing children coming in hungry and without warm clothes.
Manager Alethea Fynn, who has run the 32-place nursery for the past three years, said: “Many families are on low incomes and some of the parents are unable to work. For some, it’s a lifeline. Sanitary towels are often among the first items to go.”
Nearly 40 per cent of children in Southwark are growing up in poverty, according to Trust for London. Ms Flynn added: “When these children break up for school holidays and are not here, we wonder how parents are going to feed them.”
One family that was given a food parcel sticks in her mind. “The next day the father came in and said, ‘You don’t know how much that helped because it took £30 off our food shopping and I was able to buy electricity for us’.”
Another mother with five children who asked to be called PG said she had also made cuts because of soaring costs of food. “The impact is that where we had the luxury of doing certain things, saving up for extra things like a holiday, now we don’t,” said the 35-year-old who lives with her partner in Bermondsey.
The strain on family finances means that for families like Kayleigh’s, Christmas brings added stress. “They won’t get the same amount of presents as they normally would.” Kayleigh used to buy her children monthly treats for doing well in school but can’t afford them anymore.
“Sometimes the children say, ‘Oh Mummy, why can’t we get it?,’ and it’s like, ‘Mummy hasn’t got the money for it’.”
Kayleigh added that friends and family who are in work are also struggling. “I have friends who work and still have to claim universal credit to top up. They’re going to food banks.” In addition to the nursery’s free food bank, she attends another food bank in Peckham which offers £15 worth of groceries for £4.50.
Ms Fynn urged readers to donate to our Christmas appeal: “If we don’t get funding, at the end of the day when parents come to me and say, ‘Are we getting a food bag?’, it will make the difference between whether we can continue to help or not.”
Kayleigh and PG said staff go the extra mile to help. They gave Kayleigh vitamins after doctors said her levels were low. PG picks up a few food items when she collects her child, like cereal and tinned goods. “It really helps,” she said. “Perhaps more than they think.”