The Big Lunch Before Covid and the cost of energy rose to today’s extreme levels, over 5,000 young people in Perth & Kinross were reportedly in food poverty. That is nearly a quarter of families. As the energy price hike begins to bite this is only likely to get worse. The Perth City Leadership Forum, working with the Council and various key players across the third sector, are keen to help highlight the issue, and identify ways we can all help, as businesses and individuals. This problem is so significant and deep rooted, that it is going to take a huge effort from businesses, organisations and individuals to make in-roads. Whether you can bring time, expertise, premises, freezers and equipment, buying power, food, money, social housing, energy solutions, insulation solutions, help with third sector costs, a warm space or simple enthusiasm to help, we want to hear from you.. Chris Birt, Deputy Director for Scotland of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “… even before the pandemic, an unacceptable number of people were trapped in poverty in Scotland. None of us want to live in a country where over one million people, including around 250,000 children, live in poverty. For people in poverty, returning to normal after the pandemic is not good enough.” PCLF Chair Mike Robinson explained, “The current cost of living crisis requires a response, everyone is affected, and those who were already struggling will face severe hardship unless we act. The statistics are shocking, and that was pre-pandemic! The leadership forum is determined to help galvanise public sector and private support to tackle this crisis. We are hosting a lunch to bring people together for a chance to hear from the front-line service providers, to listen to some of those struggling, and to understand what they need from us and what we can all do to make a difference. Please get in touch and join us for soup and a sandwich. It might save a life.” “Having chaired an organisation for a decade which relies in part at least on local authority funding, and sat on a number of other boards, I am not sure if everyone in the general public fully understands how absolutely cash strapped our public services are. They have seen cut on cut on cut for the best part of 12 years. This relentless austerity has made us less resilient as a society, so that when shocks like Covid, Brexit or the energy price inflation hit, we are too stretched, exhausted and financially fragile to cope easily. Climate change and Biodiversity loss have got worse, and poverty has mushroomed. The signs of poverty were there (and always have been), but the massive growth in food banks is an obvious one, yet much of the acceleration in rates of poverty for those both in and out of work, has been absent in much public discourse. But after more than a decade of cuts, there are now gaping wounds in our society. I would encourage any organisation that wants to help to please get in touch. He continued: “If we are not careful we are in danger of being so over whelmed by short term crises that we forget to solve the longer-term problems that are driving them. We need to help people through this cost of living crisis, but we also need to tackle the root causes of poverty. We cannot afford to ignore poverty. And similarly, we cannot afford to ignore climate change... Both if left unchecked will pull our society apart. “And if we are being really sensible, many of the things we should do can both tackle poverty and other crises such as the climate emergency, as it is both a cause of, and a multiplier for, many of the shorter-term problems we face. Since much of this current crisis is energy related, then longer term measures to produce our own energy safely and renewably, and shorter-term measures to increase efficiency (like insulation) are no brainers and could go a long way towards pulling households out of fuel poverty, if managed sensitively. The Leadership forum is pursuing projects on all of these fronts, but we need the people of Perth & Kinross to get on board and help." “I am delighted to be part of such a collective response from the business, voluntary and community sectors, as well as the Council, to the challenges of poverty which are faced by many in our communities” commented Councillor Grant Laing. “As leader of Perth and Kinross Council we have set tackling poverty as a key priority in our Corporate Plan, currently out to consultation, and have backed this up with over £1m in new measures since I was appointed leader. Working alongside Perth City Leadership Forum and other partners to deliver a range of direct support to individuals as well as initiatives such as The Big Lunch to highlight the issues being faced, will be critical if we are to make an impact on the lives of those who are affected by poverty, not least the 5155 children who were living in poverty even before the current cost of living crisis”. The Big Lunch is taking place in Dewars Centre in Perth at 1:00PM on Friday 28th October.