“It is heart breaking to see some of the families with such young children struggling for adequate food supplies in our communities.”

Hana Agha manages The Culture Hub in Leeds

A queue snakes outside the doors of the Cultural Food Hub, as bags full of ingredients like rice, lentils and kidney beans are handed out.

After paying rent and bills many families are left with very little for food and other essential items. The Culture Hub in Leeds is supporting over 1,000 people per week providing food, clothing, hygiene, fuel vouchers and baby food.

Hana Agha (above) manages this centre in Leeds. She she says the number of low-income families using her service in recent days has “skyrocketed”.

Hana’s team saw “culturally inappropriate” goods being distributed by food banks. This included items some religions can’t accept, such as pork being given to Muslim and Jewish people.

“We’ve got massive diverse communities – African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, South Asian and Eastern European. You want to make them feel valued,” she says.

So, the Cultural Food Hub – a project by Give A Gift and Leeds City Council focuses on providing food culturally appropriate, and bundle different ingredients together for Middle Eastern, South East Asian and African cultures.

Give a Gift, a Leeds based charity have been distributing culturally-appropriate food parcels and other essential items since the start of the pandemic. Now, they’re working seven days a week to support more and more families and individuals due to the cost-of-living crisis.

The organisation is already supporting vulnerable people including the homeless, low-income families, those suffering from domestic abuse, asylum seekers, refugees and people who are in full time employment who are not eligible for state benefits.

Rifhat Malik MBE, one of the co-founders of the charity says: “We are literally packing and handing out hundreds of food parcels every week. It is heart breaking to see some of the families with such young children struggling for adequate food supplies in our communities.

Rifhat Malik MBE, is one of the founders of Give a Gift charity

“Many people are struggling to heat their homes and have to make very difficult choices.

“Many families are struggling with basics such as food and essentials, and some are in urgent need of assistance. Give a Gift has recognised the call for help from people of all faiths, people who do not reach the criteria for benefits, and those living on the poverty line.

“We are supporting families who don’t qualify for the extra support given by the Government, or don’t meet the full criteria for Universal credits and are having to turn to food banks and charities just to provide food for their children.

“We are doing everything we can to help some of the most vulnerable communities including those living below the poverty line, the destitute and asylum seekers. We are also trusted by the communities we serve to ensure that we follow their cultural dietary requirements.”

The distribution builds on the work they have ben undertaking for over the last two years as one of two local authority appointed cultural food hubs in the city and is in collaboration with other charities and community organisations including Islamic relief, BAK Foundation, Barakah Team, Just Care, Muslim Kitchen & Peace Matters.

Retired volunteer Janice Hargreaves packs bags of food for the Cultural Food Hub. She says: “Some people are registered on our lists, while others have simply shown up in need of emergency support.

“It’s not just people on benefits coming here. Pensioners, asylum seekers and refugees who aren’t getting any money need just as much help,” she explains.

“I’ve never known people queuing for food like this in my lifetime,” she says. “I like to think if I needed it, somebody out there would help me.”