Housing

Here’s what 24,000 homeless youngsters could eat this Christmas

Microwaved pilchards and rice or discarded pizza are on the menu according to youth homelessness charity Centrepoint’s research

Turkey and Christmas dinner on the left with

Most people are used to having turkey with all the trimmings at Christmas but homeless youngsters are more likely to have microwaved food and leftovers, if they eat anything. Image credit: Centrepoint

More than 24,000 young people affected by homelessness this Christmas may not get a turkey dinner, instead facing the grim prospective of microwaved pilchards or discarded pizza for their festive meal.

Youth homelessness charity Centrepoint made the warning as they enlisted their ambassador, celebrity chef Aldo Zilli, to demonstrate the dramatic difference between the Christmas dinner most people receive and the reality for those forced to go without.

On the one side is the turkey with all the trimmings, the Christmas pudding, the pigs in blankets, the cheese and chocolates we all gorge ourselves on every Christmas.

On the other is pilchards and rice, discarded pizza, microwave meals, fast food and leftovers: all items youngsters told Centrepoint they have eaten on Christmas day when they had not other choice — if they got a meal at all.

Zilli said: “Having experienced homelessness myself, and eaten discarded pizza from the back of a restaurant on Christmas Day, I’m proud to be able to support Centrepoint this year.

“While most of us worry about supermarket queues and buying enough stuffing to feed the family, many homeless young people will be spending Christmas alone, scared and without a decent meal.”

CENTREPOINT_HOMELESS_CHRISTMAS_011
Celebrity chef Aldo Zilli said he himself once had to eat discarded pizza at Christmas while homeless.

Households spend, on average, £127 on festive food every year, rising to £171 if they live in London, according to an Opinium survey of UK adults on behalf of Centrepoint.

But more than a fifth of people quizzed admit to cooking too much and throwing away leftovers and one in ten insist that they have been forced to bin unopened food.

Centrepoint’s campaign is aiming to show the harsh realities that 24,000 young people faced while they were homeless last Christmas. The charity is urging people to avoid buying food that they don’t need and instead buying a warm meal for a youngster who needs it by donating £10.

Gareth, from Barnsley, was supported by Centrepoint in the past after suffering the heart-breaking loss of his mother just days before Christmas.

With the charity’s support he turned his life around to securing his own flat and work at the Department of Education.

He said: “Christmas was always a difficult time for me but I felt that while at Centrepoint they did their best to make me feel someone cared, something you don’t expect when you’re not with family.

“They provided a food hamper and presents, put up decorations and lights too because it’s a time you start thinking about your family and they make a special effort to pick up the mood and remind you that people care.”

Isabel Rice, Centrepoint’s senior dietitian, warns that the Covid-19 pandemic has already affected how young people access food. London School of Economics research released last month warned that more than one in ten 16 to 25 year olds had lost their job due to the pandemic and many work in the retail sector that continues to be badly hit with the collapse of Debenhams and the Arcadia Group.

This has left youngsters struggling to pay for food while the pandemic has also made it more difficult to get help from their support network.

Rice said: “Christmas is different for every homeless young person. Some are able to spend time with family or friends, but some don’t have that support and are isolated.

“We worry that lots of homeless young people who would usually gather in groups may not be able to do so this year, or if they’d generally stay with older relatives, they may not be able to do that.”

Big Issue vendors need your help now more than ever. More than 1,000 vendors are out of work because of the second lockdown in England. They can’t sell the magazine and they can’t rely on the income they need.

The Big Issue is helping our vendors with supermarket vouchers and gift payments but we need your help to do that.

Please buy this week’s magazine from the online shop or take out a subscriptionThis will make sure we can continue to support our vendors over this difficult period. You can even link your subscription to your local vendor with our new online map.

Thank you all so much for your ongoing support.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
'You live in fear': Leasehold homeowners share horror stories of nasty hidden fees and service charges
leasehold, michael gove
Leasehold

'You live in fear': Leasehold homeowners share horror stories of nasty hidden fees and service charges

Leaseholder rights: How to fight against rip-off service charges – a step-by-step guide
service charges, flats, UK
Leasehold

Leaseholder rights: How to fight against rip-off service charges – a step-by-step guide

TSB Bank forced to change buy-to-let mortgage policy after renters' furious sit-in protest
Renters from Acorn union occupied TSB branches to force a climbdown on buy-to-let mortgages
Renting

TSB Bank forced to change buy-to-let mortgage policy after renters' furious sit-in protest

Beat the Streets music festival funds new homes for rough sleepers: 'If we could do more, we would'
Homelessness

Beat the Streets music festival funds new homes for rough sleepers: 'If we could do more, we would'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know