Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s discounted Eat Out To Help Out scheme launched this week offering diners a 50 per cent discount on restaurant meals in a bid to boost the badly-hit hospitality sector.
But now food poverty campaigners are asking those who can afford it to pass on the discount to help people in poverty going hungry during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The cheekily titled grassroots campaign Eat Out To Really Help Out is leading the charge. Fundraiser Felicity Jones quickly launched the online campaign after finding Sunak’s offer to be in bad taste.
“It was a niggle that didn’t go away in the week leading up to the launch of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme,” said Felicity, who works primarily in international development and is also set to launch consultancy Thinking Philanthropy and social enterprise Empowering Charities soon.
“I read two articles in a row: one urging to eat out and make the most of this undirected discount and the other was about the increasing entrenched food poverty.
“Food poverty had a lot of coverage over the summer thanks to Marcus Rashford but I felt that attention had gone away while the problem hasn’t.
“I absorbed that as a normal person and thought this ridiculous. I live in Lancaster, three miles away from one of the country’s most deprived areas in Morecambe, and I was thinking how would that make me feel if I was sitting in Morecambe and having to get my essentials from a foodbank? I felt like there was a complete disconnect there.”
The Big Issue magazine is a social enterprise, a business that reinvests its profits in helping others who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or whose lives are blighted by poverty.
Inspired by previous Age UK campaigns urging wealthy pensioners to donate their winter heating allowance to those who need it, Felicity wants her campaign to see people band together to help the poorest as well as raise awareness of the country’s continued reliance on foodbanks. The latter has been especially true during the Covid-19 lockdown as the economic impact has started to bite.
Sunak’s Eat Out To Help Out initiative is aimed at boosting the economy and getting the hospitality sector moving again – this week 72,000 individual restaurants took part with data from retail analyst Springboard showing a 30 per cent rise in trade on Monday versus the same time the week before.
But as even discounted meals out don’t help those who have seen their incomes slashed to virtually nothing in the Covid-19 fallout.
“Me and my family went out for a meal on Monday and got the discount and, thankfully, we didn’t need it so we decided to make some good out of that money and use it in ways that were not intended but are more important,” Felicity added.
“I want to get that idea out into the ether and get people to think in the context of what is happening before our eyes. I don’t understand why people aren’t shouting from the rooftops about entrenched poverty and why foodbanks should be pop-ups for emergencies and not permanent features of our society.”
Eat Out To Really Help Out has been welcomed by the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), who support more than 900 foodbanks.
IFAN research has laid bare the huge increase in demand for foodbanks during the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of three-day emergency food parcels given out by independent foodbanks grew by 177 per cent between May 2019 and May 2020. That number had also nearly trebled between February and May this year.
Sabine Goodwin, coordinator of the IFAN and a Big Issue Changemaker, said: “The Eat Out To Really Help Out campaign is raising welcome awareness of the insensitivity of the Chancellor’s summertime scheme – a plan that’s totally out of touch with the food poverty reality facing millions in the UK.
“As the Eat Out To Really Help Out campaign understands well, any donations to foodbanks are urgent right now but more so are actions calling for an end for the need for charitable food aid. Now is the time to stop hunger from happening in the first place.”
New vlog👇Eat Out To Help Out is great if you’ve got the other £10. But eating out is an unimaginable luxury for millions. Today’s @SocMetricsComm report shows those in the deepest poverty hit hardest by coronavirus. We must throw out a stronger lifeline. @jrf_uk pic.twitter.com/bdRB0tzuSI
— Helen Barnard (@Helen_Barnard) August 5, 2020
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s acting director Helen Barnard has also spoken out against the government scheme, calling for a “stronger lifeline” to help families staving off hunger. She said: “You can go out for a £20 meal and have a £10 discount. That’s great if you have the other £10. But for millions of families across our country, eating out is an unimaginable luxury.
“It’s right that we support the hospitality industry and the people who work in it. But it’s not okay to leave those in the deepest poverty cast adrift.”
Image: Poppy Design Studio