Cost of living crisis: Peterborough charity supporting food banks warns of rise in demand for food

The founder of the charity says people in ‘everyday work' could be forced to use food banks – because of the rise in cost of living.

By Adam Barker
Monday, 4th April 2022, 5:38 pm

The founder of a charity that distributes excess food from supermarkets to food banks across Peterborough has warned of an increasing demand - because of the cost of living crisis.

Cocoa Fowler is the founder of Food for Nought, which saves surplus food from supermarkets and farms from going to landfill and delivers it to food banks for people in need.

At the moment his charity is delivering over 1,000 meals a week across the city, which he says is four times more than pre-pandemic.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Cocoa Fowler at his Food for Nought premises at Gladstone Street (image: David Lowndes)

He believes only more people will be forced to use food banks as energy prices continue to rise during the cost of living crisis.

Everyday people now needing helping hand

“The rising cost of living is increasing the demand for food,” Mr Fowler said. “The numbers just keep going up.

“In the past, people have always thought it's just the homeless, then it was jobless people - now it’s families and people in everyday work who need our help.”

Mr Fowler, who served his country for 15 years as part of the British Army, said he suffered with physical and mental health issues after leaving the forces.

Following a tour of Iraq he left the army and he established a business overseas before volunteering in Sri Lanka in 2005 to help with the tsunami relief effort.

When returned to the UK he found himself homeless – prompting him to volunteer at a food bank – before establishing Food for Nought.

11,000 Peterborough children in poverty

It comes as nearly a quarter of children in Peterborough were living in poverty during the first full year of the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions recorded 11,403 children, aged under 16 in Peterborough, were living in families with low incomes in 2020-21 – an estimated 23.8 per cent of all youngsters in the region.

That was down from 28 per cent the previous year.

Families who earn less than 60 per cent of the national median household income before housing costs are considered low income households.

People making choice between eating and paying bills

“The cost of living is going to affect me,” Mr Fowler added. “If it wasn’t for me working for a charity involved with food I don’t think I would have enough to survive.

“I see so many people in the same position. People are having to make a choice between buying food and paying for their bills. It’s only going to get worse.”

Food for Nought is trying to open a new distribution and community centre on Gladstone Street - but it has struggled to secure funding.

Mr Fowler hopes that with financial support the charity will be able to open the centre to store and distribute more food - as well as teaching people how to cook and prepare meals.

“We’re in desperate need of financial support,” he said.

“Our project is to build a community centre with a kitchen where we can process the food and teach people how to turn it into meals which will use hundreds of thousands of tonnes of food waste.

“If we do get Ukrainian refugees in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire we want to be able to feed them - but we need the centre to do it.”