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Heat or Eat popup aims to showcase the reality of fuel poverty in the UK

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Heat or Eat popup aims to showcase the reality of fuel poverty in the UK
(Picture: npower)

Winter brings its own trials – from seasonal affective disorders to fantasising about Barbados getaways. But the thought of a hot cocoa by the heating can make it just that bit bearable.

But what happens if you have to choose between central heating and a hot meal?

To highlight this reality faced by many families this winter, chef, activist, and food writer Jack Monroe has partnered with energy company npower to create a popup dining experience.

Diners at Fuel, a one-off dining event, will have to choose between warm food in freezing surroundings or forgoing food for a warmer setting.

Diners were in for a shock at their trial run in Whitechapel.

‘Nobody expected to have their dinners whisked out from under their nose once we put the heating on,’ Jack said. ‘It really hit people.

‘They asked “what do you mean I can’t have both?” And that’s the reality for people in the UK.

‘It’s diabolical we need fuel banks in one of the richest countries in the world.’

Heat or Eat popup aims to showcase the reality of fuel poverty in the UK
(Picture: npower)

The popup comes as research conducted by YouGov found that almost a third of UK adults are concerned that they will have to forgo gas or electricity for a period of time this winter to reduce their utility bills. Meanwhile, 35% of adults will make fewer hot drinks every single day during winter.

And fuel poverty doesn’t just affect families – 52% of retirees will have fewer hot showers and baths each week.

The campaign is particularly personal for Monroe, who lived with fuel poverty for 18 months as a single mum on benefits.

More: Food

She developed recipes based on the tins people receive from food bank boxes across the country.

‘It was quite daunting at first even with my cooking knowledge,’ she said. ‘But I felt it would be off to sit down and have venison.

‘I wanted to do it properly and make recipes based on the food you’d be typically given from a typical food bank box but presented in restaurant dishes.’

The dishes on offer will be a pea and ham soup made with mushy peas, Bolognese (or chilli for vegetarians) and a chocolate sponge cake with oozy marmalade sauce.

Monroe is aware that the popup is key to changing perceptions. ‘You’re never going to accurately portray feeding a screaming baby with a tin of spam but it’s about an alternative way of getting campaign methods across.’

Since 2015, the Fuel Bank has provided immediate support for people in fuel crisis by giving two weeks’ worth of emergency gas and electricity to Foodbank users, in partnership with anti-poverty charity The Trussell Trust. In the last two and a half years, the initiative has helped over 70,000 people with pre-payment meters, providing over £1 million worth of emergency gas or electricity.

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