Food Train: Charity warns elderly across Falkirk are having to choose between eating and heating

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OAPs are having to choose between food or heating amid fears malnourishment could increase, a charity warned.

Some elderly people are living on salad to avoid using electricity, were cutting back on showers, and one person described the choice between food and warmth as "torture".

Charity food Food Train has written to Scottish Secretary Alister Jack calling on the UK Government to double the amount paid in its previously announced Pensioner Cost of Living payment to help people cope with the crisis.

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A survey by the charity found 27 per cent of those questioned had started buying less food and 25 per cent said they would struggle to pay their bills, with 37 per cent having already dipped into savings to make ends meet.

Pensioners are having to choose between heating and eating as costs spiral. Picture: John DevlinPensioners are having to choose between heating and eating as costs spiral. Picture: John Devlin
Pensioners are having to choose between heating and eating as costs spiral. Picture: John Devlin

Another 30 per cent have switched to cheaper food brands, 60 per cent said they will heat their home less, and 41 per cent are cooking more often by microwave to save heating their oven.

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Food Train works with more than 3000 older people each year across Scotland, helping them to eat well and live well in their own homes through a range of shopping, meal making, befriending and other support projects.

The charity was rolled out to the Falkirk area at the end of last year.

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An elderly woman said: "I eat salads so I don't need to use electricity. I can't afford it and don't have any savings to dip into."

Another added: "It's very difficult not to give way to depression. If I feel cold, I don't turn the heating on - I just put more clothes on."

Another OAP said: "I might have to reduce my shopping. I don't know how to save money on energy because I need to keep warm.

"When the temperature drops, I suffer pains."

Another said: "It's torture to choose between heat and food."

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Some said they were already only heating part of their homes, were showering less often to save on power, eating sandwiches for main meals and have stopped buying new clothes.

Others are going out less often to save money, increasing the risk of social isolation.

Food Train's grocery shopping service has faced sustained record-high demand across Scotland since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, making more than 60,000 shopping deliveries across Scotland in the last 12 months.

Chief executive Michelle Carruthers said: "Our members are very worried about the winter ahead.

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"Many have no idea how they'll cope. Some will have to juggle between keeping warm and keeping fed.

"This puts people's lives in danger.

"Without immediate action, alarming numbers of older people are going to be at greater risk of malnutrition and social isolation this winter, causing further health problems and putting further strain on our already under-pressure NHS.

"The reports we are hearing from our members are heartbreaking, alarming and unacceptable. Their concerns are clear and are growing.

"Doubling the new Pensioner Cost of Living payment will go at least some way towards keeping the heating on and the cupboards stocked this winter."