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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Alex Lloyd

Inside one of UK's Warm Welcome Spaces keeping people safe from cold cost of living hell

Outside, the temperature is a bone-shivering 2C, with snow forecast to be on the way.

But inside this little community centre, the atmosphere is toasty warm in more ways than one.

Around 70 people have gathered here at the weekly Planet Food zero waste shop and cafe, which redistributes leftover produce from supermarkets and businesses.

But, as one of the UK’s Warm Welcome spaces, it has a bigger purpose – bringing people together and making sure they stay safe and warm.

Regular Sarah, 54, has made friends with Sandi, 69, and Denise, 63, thanks to the project at Southlands Methodist Church community centre in York.

She juggles caring for her 27-year-old disabled daughter at home along with a part-time retail job.

Big-hearted Rosie started Planet Food (Paul David Drabble)

Planet Food was started nearly four years ago by Green Party councillor Rosie Baker to give locals an affordable, eco way to get food. Now, it is needed more than ever.

Until recently, people queued for two hours to get in first. Now staff have opened an adjoining hall to help them shelter and socialise.

One group chatting on the sofas come every Thursday without fail.

Everyone is welcome at Planet Food (Paul David Drabble)

Nora, jobless and in her 50s, has a half-hour walk here with her trolley.

She says: “We’re all struggling with everything – gas, electric, food. Until a year ago I could get by on benefits.”

Retired Brian, 65, says his energy bill has tripled from £80 a month. At home he wears a dressing gown over his clothes and a sleeping bag.

When the doors open at 11am, Nora and Brian stock up on fresh food and even flowers from the pay-as-you-feel store, where shoppers decide the price of goods.

Sandi and Sarah met at the centre (Paul David Drabble)

Everyone is welcome at Planet Food, regardless of their finances. Full-time mum-of-two Kim Snape, 36, has started coming with two-year-old son Fin.

She says: “I can’t stay at home with him all day. It is too cold.” This place certainly warms her heart.

  • Warm Welcome is coordinated by the Good Faith Partnership and supported by the Salvation Army, Libraries Connected, Muslim Council of Britain, Neighbourly, Christians Against Poverty, Acts 435, Safe Families, Edge Ministries and the Together Coalition, among others. See for your nearest centre or to volunteer to help.

With more than 16 million people facing fuel poverty this winter, the Sunday Mirror is helping to raise funds for the Warm Welcome campaign through our Warm Hearts Christmas appeal.

Warm Welcome supports morethan 3,000 warm spaces, including libraries, community centres and small businesses, opening their doors to welcome people who need them. That need has never been greater.

These inviting spaces rely on donations so they can provide heating and food, hot drinks and toys, where possible.

Backing the initiative, former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “I ask all who can to act. Your communities and local charities need you.”

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