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Cost of living: ‘A choice between eating and heating’

“If we’re low on food sometimes we’ll go all day not eating anything before having our only meal of the day at teatime. It’s a struggle, but what can you do?”

Julie Humphreys, 55, says daily life as a low-income household in Bramley means she has been dependent on the ‘lifeline’ food distribution session run by volunteers from the Bramley Care Bears group.

Julie, who is registered as disabled and needs a mobility scooter to get around, said: “I need the shower and heating because of my disability, so it’s a catch 22, do I get food or do I put the heating on – or do we try to mix it up? We can’t always have both.”

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Julie also has type two diabetes but can’t always keep to her strict diet because ‘food is  food and you can’t be picky – you’ve got to get what you can’.

“I don’t know what I’d do without the food distribution service, I really don’t,” Julie added.

And the lead volunteer behind the foodbank, Angela McConnell, has warned the soaring cost of food and fuel, combined with council tax, will create the ‘perfect storm’ and lead to even greater demand for their services in coming months.

Financial difficulties have been exacerbated for many in recent years, with the coronavirus pandemic, subsequent cuts to Universal Credit and rising food and energy bills taking their toll on families who were only just managing.

This has culminated in them doing something they had never imagined – using a food bank to ensure they don’t go hungry.

Angela told WLD the next few months will put a tremendous strain on families and working class households, who will have to choose between gas and electric and food. 

“It’s not going to get any better,” she said. “They’re still going to be putting people on to Universal Credit and people are still going to have to wait five or six weeks for their money to come through. 

“People are in rent arrears and the cost of living is soaring and going to get worse. 

“We’ve had people coming to us saying they have been able to both heat their homes and eat, but only thanks to the food distribution we provide. It’s a lifeline for many.”

The Government says it will mitigate the rise in the cost of living through a mixture of initiatives and discounts, which will help families save up to £350.

Community organisation Bramley Care Bears run food distribution sessions at Bramley Community Centre on Sundays from 1pm to 2pm, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11am to 12pm. More details on their Facebook group.

Check out our guide on where to get food help in West Leeds here.

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