After the challenges of winter, summer usually provides some respite at the food bank. But not this summer. Numbers are higher than ever: we’re only halfway through July and we’ve already registered more new guests than the whole of February. The cost-of-living crisis — on top of years of austerity, the pandemic, the cut to universal credit cut and the end of furlough — continues to drive new people to our doors at an alarming rate.
And now the current heatwave presents additional challenges for our guests. As I write this on Monday, the temperature in south-west London is 37 degrees. It’s predicted to rise to over 40 on Tuesday. How are our guests coping?
First, there are challenges dealing with the practical aspects of keeping cool and keeping safe in the sun. Government guidance is widespread throughout the media but some of the simple pieces of advice are a stretch for those already pushed to the limit.
- Working temperature: When is it too hot to work?
- UK heatwave: How to travel safely if you absolutely have to
- Food banks forced to close as UK heatwave sees temperatures soar
- How can I help homeless people during a UK heatwave?
Guest Jill, aged 65, says: “I’ve got an electric fan, but I can’t bear the thought of what the electricity will cost. We’re broke already. I couldn’t pay last month’s bill, and everything’s got more expensive since then.”
Another guest, Edie is equally exasperated. “It’s just more expenditure isn’t it? Sunscreen – the school keep emailing about that – but we can only afford if we replace something else on the shopping list.
“And washing too – I’ve been trying not to wash clothes too much, as it’s so expensive – running the machine and also washing powder. But in this heat, you need to wash things all the time.”