Working with Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex Community Foundations, £70,000 will be split among warm hubs. Warm hubs have been set-up to provide those who need it with a warm space, food and drink. Critically, the hubs also provide guidance and signposting to additional support for people using the service.
The remaining £30,000 will be donated to 25 local foodbanks. The donations will be given out in foodbank parcels in the form of vouchers which can be used to pay for items such as groceries, electric and gas top-ups from the East of England Co-op.
The money would typically be spent on marketing leaflets featuring the East of England Co-op’s Christmas offers, usually distributed to 0.5m homes across the region. The donation will instead benefit thousands of local people through Christmas and into January, February and beyond.
Niall O’Keeffe, joint chief executive of the East of England Co-op said: “Warm hubs have been created in the face of spiralling energy costs and demand on foodbanks this winter is expected to be unprecedented. In these difficult times we have been compelled to do more than we have ever done before. Re-directing our marketing spend to help people directly was morally the right decision knowing the difference the money will make to those most in need in our community.
“We are working closely with the Community Foundations to ensure this is a donation not just for Christmas, but that will continue to make a difference right through the winter and in particular the tough first few months of the year when there is typically a fall in charitable giving.”
The east of England is a world leader in clean energy generation with figures recently released by GENERATE showing that 32% of UK homes are powered by clean energy from our region. Despite so much energy on our doorstep, it is estimated more than half (51%) of households in the east will be living in fuel poverty by January 2023, ramping up demand on warm hubs.
Jackie Pobjoy, business manager at Walton Community Centre, one of the facilities benefiting from the donation commented: “We will be offering food, warmth, practical support and so much more, all under one roof, creating an accessible space which anyone can use without fear of judgement. Running a warm hub has the potential to make a huge difference in our community, particularly in Walton where there are no other services like this. We are extremely grateful to the East of England Co-op for their financial support, which will directly benefit so many people locally who are having to make a tough choice between heating or eating. It is a hard time for everybody right now.”
Henry Wilson from Reach Haverhill foodbank commented: “As the nights draw in and it is getting colder, more families need help from our foodbank than at any other time in our 14-year history. We have already fed more children in 2022 than any other year and we still have 6 weeks to go. Therefore, the very generous donation of vouchers for food and heating is incredibly welcome. We value the dignity that vouchers afford people, giving them far more choice and empowering families who find themselves facing a financial crisis and hardship.”
In 2020 the East of England Co-op launched the Foodbank Donation Gift Card. The card can be purchased in store from Monday 5th December and then be given as a gift at Christmas with 100% of the £5 purchase price going to local foodbanks. The card contains a message of thanks for helping local people in crisis. East of England Co-op customers are being encouraged to support however they can either through donations at the till point, by purchasing the Foodbank Donation Gift Card for someone or donating groceries at collection points in store. Niall added: “We want to make it easy for our customers to give back to their community and ethical gifting is an excellent way to do that.”
The marketing budget re-direct ends a significant year of giving for the East of England Co-op, which donated more than £400,000 to local charities and good causes in 2022.
For more information visit www.eastofengland.coop.
Image: Niall O`Keeffe East of England Co-Op Credit: Daniel Jones.