Millions of children have eaten for free or at discounted prices in supermarket cafes in recent months, figures reveal, as families continue to feel the pinch of the cost of living crisis.
According to the BBC, more than three million youngsters have taken advantage of the cafes and their bargain deals since May, after special campaigns were launched over the summer holidays and half term.
Marks & Spencer, which operates some 330 cafes, said it was experiencing a new ‘after-school rush’ due to its offerings.
But among those leading the pack has been Asda, which has served a million £1 children’s meals since June, with the deal still being made available to cash-strapped families.
According to the BBC, more than three million youngsters have taken advantage of the warm cafes and their bargain deals since May, after special campaigns were launched over the summer holidays and during half term. (Pictured: The current deals at three of the big supermarket chains)
Asda is offering over 60s soup, a bread roll and unlimited tea and coffee for £1 until the end of December
It has also launched its ‘Winter Warmers’ promotion, which offers customers aged 60 and above soup, a roll and unlimited cups of tea for just £1 in any of its 205 cafes throughout November and December.
A spokesperson told MailOnline today: ‘The Kids Eat for £1 and OAP Winter Warmer Café £1 meal deal have this week hit a staggering 1 million meals served since June.
‘The £1 café deals are averaging around 50,000 meals a week as 89 per cent of people say the rise in the cost of living is the biggest concern for them.’
Asda said sales of the low-cost meals were highest in half term and school holidays. However, in the four weeks since the October break, around 29,500 £1 Kids meals are still being sold per week.
Almost three quarters (73 per cent) have been new Asda cafe customers, while around a third were visiting the supermarket for the first time purely for the meal deal.
And 41 per cent of baskets contained two or more meals, meaning multiple children were often being fed per visit.
Mohsin Issa, Asda’s co-owner, added: ‘We have launched these initiatives to support our customers and communities this winter as we know it’s going to be incredibly hard for many people due to rising living costs.
Leading the pack has been Asda, which has served a million £1 children’s meals since June, with the deal still being made available to cash-strapped families
ONS figures show that all food and drink has gone up in September – with staples like milk rising by up to 42%
The offer can be taken up in any of Asda’s cafes throughout November and December
Which supermarkets are still offering free or discounted meals in their cafes?
Asda: Kids meal for £1 at their cafes. And soup, bread roll and bottomless brews for over 60s for £1. Throughout November and December.
Morrison’s: A free kids meal for every adult who spends more than £4.49 in the cafe. All day every day.
Sainsbury’s: Free kids hot meal or kids lunch bag with the purchase of any adult hot main meal from £5 in its cafes, during the Christmas holidays.
During school term time, it will be offering kids eat for £1 with the purchase of any adult hot main meal from £5.
‘We have already served more than a million meals through our Kids Eat for £1 and Winter Warmers deals, and we hope that many more families and over 60s will visit in December to take advantage of these offers.
‘On top of this, we’ve invested £2.4 million through Asda and the Cost-of-Living grant programme led by Asda’s charity, The Asda Foundation who support grassroots organisations providing a lifeline in their communities during these tough times.’
Sainsbury’s is also continuing to offer deals throughout the Christmas period.
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: ‘We know that customers are counting every penny right now and the school holidays can be especially tough.
‘To help support families, we are going to be offering a free kids hot meal or kids lunch bag with the purchase of any adult hot main meal from £5 in our cafes, during the Christmas holidays.
‘During school term time, we will be offering kids eat for £1 with the purchase of any adult hot main meal from £5.’
Morrisons, meanwhile, which has more cafes than any other supermarket, gave away 70,000 free children’s meals each week through the summer holidays, it was reported.
It is now offering a free kids meal for every adult who spends more than £4.49 in the cafe.
A spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘This offer is available every day of the week. Kids can choose between a hot meal or a sandwich pack which comes with a piece of fruit and a drink.’
In the summer months and school holidays Morrisons said it served over 60,000 free meals to children and during term time 35,000 per week.
Tesco let kids eat for free at its cafes alongside any purchase as low as 60p over July and August. It also offered free meals during the October half term
‘Since January we have served 2 million free meals,’ the spokesperson added.
It comes after the supermarket most recently launched its ‘ask for Henry’ campaign in collaboration with Heinz, which has seen it hand out around 160,000 meals.
From October 26, shoppers who needed a meal simply had to ‘ask for Henry’ to be given a jacket potato with Heinz beans, for free.
Elsewhere, Tesco let kids eat for free at its cafes alongside any purchase as low as 60p over July and August. It also offered free meals during the October half term.
Adam Martin, Hospitality Managing Director, told MailOnline today: ‘Our Tesco Cafés offer great value and a range of delicious options for customers to try.
‘Earlier this year, we ran our Kids Eat Free initiative across our Cafés to support families during the school holidays.
‘We are really proud that we have already provided over 320,000 free meals to children as part of this.’
It comes after a community worker with 20 years’ experience said this week that people are being forced to eat pet food while others are heating their food on radiators due to the ongoing cost of living crisis.
Mark Seed, who heads a community food project in Trowbridge, Cardiff, is urging for people in struggling households to be given adequate support, even when they do not appear in areas associated with poverty.
He suggested that as a result of the rise of inflation that policies need to focus on people, not places.
Mr Seed spoke of how people are constantly feels the burden of the rising cost of living.
Speaking of the experiences he has witnessed, told BBC Wales: ‘I’m still shocked by the fact that we have people who are eating pet food,’ he said.
‘[There are] people who are trying to heat their food on a radiator or a candle.
‘These are shocking kind of stories that are actually the truth.’
He discussed how people are are not being paid enough to afford basic needs and essentials all should have access to.
The Pantry, where Mr Seed works, is a Community Trust-funded facility that aims to reduce food poverty in Cardiff and provide affordable food and household essentials to over 160 locals.
Inflation is up from 10.1% in September – and worse than the 10.7% forecast – becoming a nightmare for millions
Mr Seed said: ‘I’m still shocked by the fact that we have people who are eating pet food’
One of The Pantry’s visitors is Elizabeth Williams, 54, who said the project ‘makes a lot of difference’ and brings communities together during difficult times.
‘I usually go without to try to make things better in my house,’ she said.
As the cost of living progresses, recent figures showed inflation rising to a new 41-year high of 11.1 per cent – with experts warning of worse to come.
The ONS purposed that without the Government subsidising energy bills during the colder months, CPI could have been as high as 13.8 per cent and experts warned the UK faces a ‘lethal combination’ of recession and soaring prices.
Soaring food and energy costs have been labelled the main cause of the latest surge, with the Office for National Statistics estimating that the average UK household is now paying 88.9 per cent more for heating and lighting than last year.
New inflation figures show that the price of household staples such as milk, butter, cheese, meat and bread increased by up to 42 per cent last month – the highest rates since 1980.
With the cost of living crisis at an all-time high, people are going to extremes to make ends meet after inflation numbers reach a shocking 11.1%
People can expect to pay 20p more for two pints of milk, 30p more for a packet of pasta, and 30p more for six free range eggs than they did 12 months ago as not one type of food has not gone up in price.
Experts believe that by the end of the year, the average family will have spent £4,960 in the supermarket in 2022 – £380 more than 2021. A poll published this morning revealed that 85% of people are ‘worried’ about the rising cost of living – up from 69% in January.
Additionally, with the combined burden of the soaring costs of living and the shortages of turkeys and birds this winter, Brits all over the country are anxious about the costs of Christmas this year.
The idea of Christmas dinner has become a worrisome burden for many British families as new data by household finances app Nous.co revealed that a fifth of families in the UK say they are going to ask their guests to pay towards their Christmas dinner.
Along with cutting costs on food, people were planning to spend more than a third (36.3%) less on presents this year and one in three (33%) also said they could not afford to splash out like they have previously.