In her thoughtful children’s book, ‘It’s a No Money Day’, Kate Milner tells the story of a little girl and her Mum’s experience of a bare food cupboard on a day when there is no more money in Mum’s purse:
“Mum works hard so we can buy the things we need…But today is a no-money day.”
The story goes on to tell how the little girl thinks that there are still lots of fun things you can do on a ‘no-money day’:
“You can read a book from the library…
You can practice your singing in case you get on the telly.
You can make a cat out of your Mum’s dressing gown…
You can chase the pigeons…”
But on this, no-money day, “…we have to go to the food bank.”
The story goes on to say how the little girl enjoys going to the food bank because the volunteers there are lovely, but for her Mum, it is not a good thing. This is one of the hardest things that she must do to be able to provide food. She feels ashamed that she needs to rely on the donations from strangers.
On the way home from the food bank, the little girl and her Mum play the “maybe one day…” game. Maybe one day, things will be different.
In their recent ‘Poverty in Scotland 2022,’ report, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation stated that “Nearly one in five households on low incomes in Scotland have gone hungry and cold this year, even before we enter the winter months.”
It is one of the most shameful things that millions of people in the UK are having to rely on food banks to feed their families. There is no doubt that we need better solutions to the issue of low wages and the failings of the welfare system, the base line of which ensures that people have more money in their pockets (and in light of the energy crisis, a windfall tax required of the energy companies that will lower energy bills and insulate homes.).
Things need to be very different. We need – in the words of the Poverty Alliance to #turnthetide on the injustice of poverty, believing that this is possible.
At Soul Food we are noticing that more people are coming along to our meals, often extremely hungry not having eaten properly for days. We are also receiving emails and messages from folk regularly asking if we can help them immediately as they have no food in the house and their families are hungry. We try and help quickly, but the best ways in which we can offer support is at our Soul Food meals. We are firm believers in community and the churches that host Soul Food meals across the city of Edinburgh, are too.
Currently we have 8 Soul Food meals across the city, with a further three about to begin shortly. We are always keen that these free meals are not ‘projects’, done to people, but rather dynamic communities of friendship and reciprocity.
At most of our Soul Food meals, we can refer to food banks and clothes banks run by Edinburgh City Mission and the Trussell Trust. We can help arrange housing and benefit advice via various agencies and offer debt support via CAP debt centres which are held at two churches who host Soul Food meals. Over the next weeks we will be making sure that at every meal there is information about the realities behind the energy price increase and making available, information as to where extra support can be sourced. We hope too, to carefully collect stories from each other as to the effects of fuel and food poverty. We hope that these stories can then be used to campaign and advocate for change, amplifying the voices that need to be heard.
But as November approaches rapidly – knowing that for so many, it is often a “no-money day” – there are two things that we need urgently, and we wondered if you could help?
1. Could you church host a Friday Soul Food meal?
Currently we do not have a city-centre Soul Food meal on a Friday evening. We desperately need this. Food is not easy to find on a Friday evening in Edinburgh. This is even more important as the nights draw in and the weather gets colder. A warm, safe, dry space on a Friday evening is something many of our Soul Food community have asked us to provide. Could your church host a Friday Soul Food meal? We would help you set it up. We can help you source some of the finances and we can help you recruit a team of volunteers and will train your team. You would be part of the Soul Food team across the city, and you would have the support of the other teams involved with Soul Food meals. For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to meet for coffee and chat further.
2. Could you help make more Soul Food meals happen?
If a church needs financial support for their Soul Food meal, we offer some finance. We have been able to give start up grants as churches begin their meals and we have also been able to help with finance at other times throughout the year. We raise this money via individual doners and by applying for trusts and grants. Currently, we have funding for the three meals about to begin but we will need finance to begin a Friday night meal imminently.
We also regularly provide emergency support to anyone in need of food or heat. To have extra funding to ensure that we can continue this would be exceptionally helpful.
If you felt able to be part of the Soul Food community in this way, that would be incredible. It is possible to give one-off donations via our website or to set up a direct debit to give monthly. Simply click here or if you would like more information, please contact Jenny at email@example.com.
We are so grateful to all those of you who give regularly to Soul Food. So often your gifts and donations have come in at the just the ‘right time’. Often feeling quite miraculous! ‘Thank you’ feels so inadequate, but we mean it wholeheartedly.
The cost-of-living crisis we are experiencing is a chronic problem, it is not going to go away overnight. And whilst this thought can be overwhelming, it also offers opportunity for a community to come into their own. We are surrounded by assets, talents, and ingenuity in our neighbourhoods. This current situation invites us to learn what it is to connect meaningfully with each other and work together, believing – in the words of the storybook I mentioned at the beginning of this post – that “one day, things will be different.” And so, as I close, please find yourself invited to your local Soul Food meal. Whatever your financial situation, please do come for dinner. A warm welcome awaits and the opportunity to make a compassionate and practical difference to our city, beckons.
(If you would like to read Kate Milner’s, “It’s a No-Money Day’, we bought our copy from the fabulous Argonaut Books at the bottom of Leith Walk, Edinburgh. Or, alternatively, you can find it here.)