How supermarkets help customers in need

Temperatures may get cooler as we move into the winter months, but daily expenses are still increasing.

As inflation, food and energy prices continue to rise, incomes will be outpaced. Pensions, wages, benefits and savings are not keeping pace with the cost of living, leaving households grappling with cost pressures.

With attention-grabbing offers making headlines across the UK, supermarkets have been quick to highlight the initiatives they have taken to help cash-strapped customers this winter, from free groceries and cheap children’s meals to toy donations and vegetable vouchers.

Asda: winter warmer

Asda’s ‘Winter Warmer’ initiative – a £1 meal deal with a soup, a bun and unlimited tea or coffee for over-60s – was unveiled last week and aims to counteract this. It was developed to help customers in need and comes as the UK faces cost of living and energy crises this winter, with many older people likely to experience energy poverty.

According to Asda’s latest Income Tracker, these are £163 drop in disposable income aged 65-74 in August, compared with the same period last year.

Age UK research also estimates that 2.8 million elderly households will remain in fuel poverty this winter despite the energy price ceiling being frozen.

“We know this winter will be incredibly tough for thousands of pensioners as they worry about how to keep warm amid rising living costs and a steady income,” said Mohsin Issa, co-owner of Asda.

“We have already served over half a million meals in our cafes through our Kids Eat for £1 initiative and we hope our new range of soups and hot drinks for the over 60s will be just as impactful for those who need it it will be the most.”

Asda is also running a Kids Eat for £1 initiative which started in July and will run until the end of the year. The hugely popular initiative has served more than 557,000 free meals in the past four months.

Tesco: Kids eat free

Tesco is bringing back its Kids Eat Free program in all 311 of its store cafes during the October half term.

The popular offer, which also ran during the summer holidays when Tesco cafes gave away free meals to over 260,000 children, means parents can use their club card to get a free child’s meal worth up to £3.25 at just 60p Tesco tills.

To cover the semi-annual dates, the UK’s leading supermarket program will run weekdays between 17th and 28th October in England and Scotland and between 31st October and 4th November in Northern Ireland and Wales.

Alessandra Bellini, Tesco’s Chief Customer Officer, says Kids Eat Free is “just one of the ways” the supermarket is helping its customers spend less while energy prices and inflation are high reach record levels.

“We know that costs can add up during the school holidays, so we offer children free meals with every item purchased from us Adult cafes is one of the ways we’re supporting parents during this time,” she adds.

Sainsbury’s: Boost for a healthy start

Sainsbury’s will help feed more than half a million pregnant women and children as it reintroduces its £2 vouchers, which run alongside the government-funded NHS Healthy Start scheme.

As part of the scheme, which runs all winter, eligible customers will automatically receive a £2 voucher at the checkout each week when they use their Healthy Start card in store.

The NHS Healthy Start program was designed to promote healthy eating for pregnant women, babies and small children under the age of four from low-income households.

The weekly coupon allows shoppers to spend the extra money to buy fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables to improve families’ access to affordable, nutritious groceries.

Lidl: Christmas toy bank

Discounter Lidl said that while it doesn’t have a dedicated winter programme, it has instead launched a “range of initiatives” to support customers in the coming months.

This includes a new one Nationwide toy fundraiser and a pledge to donate one million meals through its retail partner and fundraising platform, Neighborly.

The Toy Bank initiative – which allows shoppers to donate new and unopened toys to give away to children in their area – was launched after research found that 80% of local organizations, including food banks and other community groups, would find toys and game donations over the holidays helpful.

Lidl will also be donating one million meals – with a focus on festive foods – and making £250,000 available to local charities, community groups and food banks.

“This year we wanted to find a meaningful way to help these communities, so we listened to the 1,500 local charities, panels and community groups we work with and clearly heard what they needed: food, toys and access to funds,” said Ryan McDonnell, Chief Executive Officer of Lidl UK.

“We hope that by introducing Toy Donation Points, we’ll make it easier for those customers who can to donate directly to local good causes, giving them a small way to make a real difference and help those who can most need.”

Steve Butterworth, CEO of Neighborhood, also commented, “For many families, Christmas gifts will be something that is difficult to afford, so a program like this that takes some of the worry out of parenting will make a world of difference.”

M&S Food: Kids eat free

M&S’ Kids Eat Free offer returns for the October half-term after being overwhelmingly popular during the summer holidays.

The offer – available when £5 is spent on adult food or drink – will be launched in over 340 M&S cafes across the UK on Monday 17 October.

Sharry Cramond, M&S Marketing and Hospitality Director, said: “We know customers are feel the pinch right now That’s why we’ve worked hard to make sure that families don’t just have affordable and inviting food at our cafes during the semester break, but also a thoroughly delicious one.”

Morrisons: Children eat free

Morrisons currently has a Kids Eat Free initiative on offer, allowing children to eat a free meal when each adult pays £5 or more for their meal. While the initiative is ongoing and not tied to the winter season, it will no doubt prove useful to many in the coming months.

Waitrose: Super Savers

Waitrose recently launched a collection of ‘Super Saver Recipes’ designed to give consumers inspiration for meals under £2 a portion this winter. The supermarket is also working with Home Start to teach basic cooking skills to its network of 10,000 volunteers to help families in need prepare more affordable meals.

Cooperative: Community pantry

The co-op has partnered with community pantry initiative Your Local Pantry to help families struggling with the ongoing cost of living crisis. The program will expand from its current 75 locations across the UK to 225 over the next three years.

These pantries will support over 30,000 shoppers who can save an average of £15 per visit, with members often saving £1,000 or more a year or more on grocery bills.

With food inflation in the UK hitting another record high of 13.9% earlier this week and a record number of people seeking food bank support, the current landscape paints a rather bleak picture for this winter.

While supermarket programs may offer temporary comfort, they will simply prove too little and too late for many households.

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