Action in Caerau and Ely are crowdfunding for hot meals

‘Unprecedented’ demand for food leads charity to fundraise to provide free meals 

People who donated to the food pantry are now relying on it themselves

DEMAND for affordable food is “higher than ever” at a community centre in Ely and Caerau, leading the charity to crowdfund to meet the need.

Action in Caerau and Ely, or ACE, run two community centres that offer affordable food and clothing in their Food Pantry and Community Shop, as well as cost-of-living support in their daily ‘crisis hour’ sessions.

“The Crowdfunder is a fantastic opportunity for us to increase the support we are able to offer to meet the increase in demand we are seeing,” said Becky Matyus, the fundraising officer for ACE. “We are issuing more food bank vouchers and fuel vouchers than ever before.

“In fact, we’re seeing an unprecedented change where people who might have previously donated to our pantry or foodbanks are now relying on the food pantry and foodbanks themselves,” she added.

The money raised will go towards keeping their food pantry stocked, sustaining the crisis hour as well as providing free breakfast to people coming to their drop-in sessions at the Dusty Forge centre in Ely.

Any donations made to the Crowdfunder, up to £250, will be doubled by The Co-Operative fund. So far, ACE have raised £1,264 and will finish at the end of March.

The increase in demand for the services is said to be down to the rising costs of fuel, food and housing, combined with low, stagnant wages and benefits, record inflation and the ongoing effects of the pandemic and Brexit.

A report by Citizens Cymru found that over 9,900 people in employment in Cardiff (12%) earn less than the living wage of £10.90 an hour.

Through their daily crisis hour, in 2021, ACE increased household income in their community by £106,434, supporting 525 households with fuel vouchers, grants and unclaimed benefits.

Ms Matyus explained that if the significant increase in demand for their crisis support carries on, it is anticipated that ACE will have supported more than 1,100 households by April 2023.

“If I’m unsure about anything, money, bills, housing or the kids and school, I pop into the Dusty Forge as I know they listen, don’t judge and that they can help me,” said Emma, a visitor to the community centre.

Another visitor turned volunteer, Sheree, said: “ACE supported me not just mentally but financially as well. I started off being supported and now I’m on the other side of things, helping others and volunteering my time.”

The charity, which has been running for 12 years, also runs a food pantry that offers a week’s worth of groceries, which is estimated to cost between £20 and £25, for as little as £5. The pantry is in more demand than ever, with 128 weekly members visiting from more than 100 households.

“The pantry is so much more than food.  We try to have fun, too, and make it the best experience it can be for people who are struggling,” said lead volunteer Sarah Whitfield. “We have really got to know our members and provide a listening ear without judgement.  When they don’t turn up for their weekly visit, we worry – we get in touch to check in.”

The charity and their 70 volunteers offer a wide range of services at both community centres from warm spaces and repair cafes to art and heritage groups. Here’s a list:

  • A daily crisis hour for those struggling to pay bills
  • Twice weekly drop-in advice sessions on benefits or housing problems
  • Warm spaces with free food and fun activities
  •  A community-run cafe with low cost, good quality food and a second-hand shop
  • A membership-based food pantry serving over 100 households a week
  • A repair cafe and library of things to promote sustainable living
  • Community groups to reduce social isolation, including coffee mornings, knitting and crafts
  • Activities for parents and young children
  • Wellbeing connectors who help people suffering with depression and anxiety to find new friends and activities to support their mental health
  • Thriving art and heritage groups and three community gardens
  • Multiple youth clubs and cooking classes for young people
  • Training to help people access jobs
  • Tailored career support to help people access better paid, more fulfilling work
  • Safe spaces and friendly faces for those struggling with bereavement and caring responsibilities

“I live alone and it gets lonely but I keep coming to ACE.  If you’re feeling down, there’s always someone there, willing to listen and talk to you, tell you how you can get involved if you want to. It’s a big help, it’s a good place to be,” said Keith, who regularly visit the Dusty Forge’s community garden.

 “We don’t see our community as a collection of problems that need solving,” said Ms Matyus. “We see it as a community that’s full of strength and talents and opportunities. People who visit don’t just have a common access to support but they also give back by contributing time.”

For more information on how to donate click here.