By Ben Hart, Storybeat

Stoke residents are receiving much-needed extra access to affordable food supplies thanks to a National Lottery-funded project supporting communities bearing the brunt of the cost-of-living pressures.

Nikki Barrett set up Affordable Food Stoke five years ago with the motto, ‘feeding families for less’ as she and her husband picked up food past or close to its sell by date and distributed it to those most in need.

With National Lottery funding, Barrett has been able to continue running a surplus food collection, a delivery service, a foodbank for people living in poverty and to run cooking on a budget and food preparation classes.

Thanks to National Lottery players, the money has helped some of the most vulnerable people impacted by cost-of-living pressures in our communities.

And new figures released this week through The National Lottery Community Fund’s latest **Community Research Index shows that over half of us (55 per cent) believe that supporting people with the rising cost-of-living is most important for the wellbeing of their local community, with almost exactly one in two (49 per cent) intending to volunteer in 2023 with young people (18 to 24) leading the way (69 per cent).

Barrett, who has no prior charity experience, says that she has had to adjust quickly to the needs of people in the area.

“We have a big waiting list of people wanting to use our services. It’s popular, which is great, but the demand is vast,” she said.

“We are in a period now where we will have to find another way to diversify, because the cost-of-living pressures are real.

“It's affecting so many families, not just the poorest of families, it's affecting families that didn't realise that this sort of thing would happen to them.

“We have got quite high stocks and food at the minute and we've got quite a few hot water bottles that we're able to distribute, but the demand is only going to increase throughout the winter and we’re still learning what we’re capable of.”

National Lottery funding distributors - encompassing sports, arts, heritage, and community - collectively awarded over £1 billion pounds to support communities throughout the UK during the coronavirus pandemic, to help them cope and recover.

And now the £30 million raised each week by National Lottery players for good causes is at the forefront in supporting communities who need it the most facing cost-of-living pressures.

Organisations throughout the UK facing increased demands, challenges, and hardships as a direct result of the pressures are being supported in various ways, as National Lottery funders throughout the UK have responded with new priorities to help communities with an approach that centres around flexibility and support. 

Many existing funding programmes have been adapted or tailored by National Lottery funders to prioritise cost of living support. The National Lottery Community Fund alone is making an initial £75 million available UK wide to help those most in need – providing community groups with greater certainty at this critical time. All funding will be kept open and available, and ready to adapt, as part of its We’re Here for You commitment.

Whether it’s funding to improve the thermal efficiency of heritage sites, providing energy efficient floodlights for community sports clubs faced with the burden of increased costs, providing thousands of free hot meals and food parcels, warm places for the community to come together during the winter months, or supporting with money management and mental health initiatives.

The National Lottery is making life that little bit easier by providing a wide array of support across sports, arts, community and charity, heritage, education and environment sectors during these challenging times. 

And Barrett says that she would not have been able to support the people of Stoke were it not for the impact of National Lottery players.

“I think a lot of charities’ failures comes down to money,” she said.

“You can have the greatest will in the world and the biggest of hearts. But you cannot run these places without it.

“Financially, The National Lottery are really important to a lot of charities.

“Really, I should not be in this job. There should not be need for any of our services.

“But we have to face the reality of where we are and where we're heading towards, and for us to carry on doing what we're doing, we need some financial backing, and that is where The National Lottery helps so many people.”

National Lottery players raise more than £30 million a week for arts, education, environment, health, heritage, sport, and voluntary projects across the UK; see the difference it’s making near you at