It’s awful to see people down to their last £3

Published on
30 May 2024

The cost-of-living crisis is still hitting Carlisle residents hard with many struggling to afford food, according to a Carlisle community centre manager.

Sharina Simpson, manager of the Greystone Community Centre, says the situation is “very concerning” and that those needing food include many who are working full time.

The community centre, located on Close Street, just off London Road, runs a pop-up shop twice a week where people can choose nine food items for £3.

“We are seeing more and more people coming to us from across the city,” said Sharina.

“I think people used to think it was only certain people, but everyone is making cutbacks, struggling and watching their money.

“It is awful to see people who are down to their last £3. For some who come, that's all they have until their next payday.”

Although the cost-of-living crisis may have dropped out of the media headlines, Sharina says: “There’s no decline in demand. If anything, we have seen an increase in the number of people.

“Recently we opened at 11am and by 11.20am there was nothing left on the shelves.

"We see families, single people, elderly people. It’s across the board.

“What you have to remember is that the working person is still struggling. We have people coming who have jobs, but they are still paying high rent and council tax and electricity.

“We have people coming who are bricklayers, personal trainers, teachers. Everyone’s feeling the pinch.

“We had one person who was living in a car who came needing help on a day when it wasn’t our pop-up, but we helped them – I would not see anyone go hungry.”

Sharina, who grew up in a council house in Botcherby before gaining a law degree, still lives in the area and says she worries for local people.

“I have had many sleepless nights. Without a doubt people are going hungry. I believe there are many parents feeding their children and going without themselves.”

She says that while demand is rising, community food hubs and food banks are seeing a decline in donations of food and supermarkets have less surplus food to donate.

“I was going out to pick up food from the supermarkets on a weekly basis but on one occasion a supermarket had just one aubergine left, and on another it was one tomato. It was costing me more in fuel than it was worth,” she said.

Sharina is grateful for help through the Kinder Kind of Kitchen community initiative – which is run by FareShare Lancashire and Cumbria in partnership with The Cumberland. The Cumberland have also donated a fridge freezer.

Members voting at the society’s annual general meeting generated funds, at £2 per vote, which provided vital fridges and freezers for food projects across the county.

“It's great because it means we can store more,” said Sharina. “It’s always a struggle to keep chilled and frozen foods and this means we can help more people.”

Claire Deekes, from The Cumberland, said: “We’re proud that through our Kinder Kind of Kitchen initiative we have help from community champions like Sharina who make a difference for those that need it most.

“Our collaboration with FareShare Lancashire and Cumbriahas been able to support 52 projects like this across Cumbria and it’s striking to hear from them all how much they’re struggling to cope with rising demand.”

Sharina, who launched the pop-up food shop at the start of the year, is now looking to create a community café. “It's not just big cities that are affected, it is right here on our doorstep in our little city, that people are struggling with the basics.

“People should be mindful that everyone is one step away from this. You might have a good job but if your job folds tomorrow you could be in the same situation.”

If you would like to help Sharina provide affordable food for local people in need contact her at Greystone Community Centre Carlisle tel: 01228 558 602