Real life stories

Couple forced to borrow soup to feed 18-month-old daughter

When temperatures plummeted in January 2010 foodbank clients across the UK were forced to choose between eating and heating. For Anne-Marie and Danny, 22, a delay in benefits hit at the same time as Danny was off work with flu. He received no sick pay and finances got so tight that they were faced with eviction as well as having no money for food.

The couple and their 18-month-old daughter, Tia, were living and sleeping in one room to reduce heating bills. They resorted to borrowing a tin of soup from their neighbours to stop little Tia going hungry. When the foodbank delivered an emergency foodbox to the delighted family there was ice on the inside of their windows.

‘I don’t know what we would have done next if it wasn’t for the foodbank’, says Danny.

December and January often see foodbank client numbers increase across the UK as people struggle with additional costs of heating and Christmas.

Hillingdon foodbank helps homeless Afghanistan hero

Lieutenant Kieran McCrystal, 25, walked barefoot to Hillingdon foodbank after his life fell apart due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following his time serving in Afghanistan. Coming to the foodbank has turned his life around.

On leaving the army, Kieran struggled to find a job and was evicted from his house after spending his life savings on rent, too proud to claim benefits. A new father, his PTSD forced him to split with the mother of his child, whom he had been saving up to marry. After spending two weeks on the streets, Lieutenant McCrystal, decided that he had to turn his life around. He went to the YMCA who provided temporary accommodation, but Kieran still needed food and was pointed to Hillingdon foodbank in Uxbridge for help.

The foodbank highlighted his predicament through their local newspaper.

Within 24 hours, Lt McCrystal was placed in accommodation. Now all he is seeking to complete his turnaround, is a job.

Skipping school to avoid embarrassment of no lunch money

A primary school boy from Gloucester stopped attending school recently because he could not face the embarrassment of having no money for lunch. On visiting his home to deliver a foodbank parcel, the school’s liaison officer discovered there was no food, except a little oats and milk. The mother’s purse was empty. The mother of two explained that her husband had left her and that the benefits were in his name. He had not been contributing towards child care since leaving and when she informed the Benefits Agency all benefits were stopped, including child benefit, because of her ‘change in circumstances’. The support worker estimated that it would take two to four months for the benefits to be re-assessed.

Officially, additional benefits like free school meals are not available to children unless parents can prove that they are in receipt of benefits. Fortunately, the foodbank was able to step in to help, enabling the boy to return to school.

Benefit delay and benefit re-assessment cause people across the UK to go hungry. Almost 40% of foodbank clients last year experienced benefit delay.

‘Without the foodbank I’d be back on the streets’

Having spent 22 years living on the street and suffering from alcoholism, Plymouth foodbank volunteer Mark says he has been given a new lease of life.

First coming to the foodbank as a client, Mark now volunteers four days a week. He says:

‘Without the foodbank I’d probably be back on the streets, drinking and shoplifting for food. The foodbank has changed me as a person, it gives me a reason to get up. I love talking to people everyday and making them cups of tea. It’s such a privilege to be able to give something back to the foodbank because it turned my life around.’

He adds:‘It’s more than just a place to get emergency food, it’s a place where you can come and chat and make friends. I’ve gone from sleeping bag to flat and my next step is to get a job and live life to the full. I’m so grateful to the foodbank for saving me from watching Jeremy Kyle with a two litre bottle of cider and for giving me hope of a better future. I want to get a job where I can help others. Foodbanks do so much for communities: every town should have one.’

Foodbank Network

‘Every church should consider a foodbank’ Steve Chalke MBE, founder of Oasis, Stop the Traffik and Faithworks