1 in 4 of us may need help from a food bank at some time in our lives
When the food was brought to my home I was in tears because I didn’t realise that kind of help was for everyday people like me who have a roof over their head.
When Phil was diagnosed with work-related stress, it was the start of a very difficult period in his life. “I was told the solution was time off work and I did cognitive behaviour therapy courses,” he explains. “But after a period of time, they decided it wouldn’t be viable for me to return to work, as I couldn’t handle the pressure of it.”
Unfortunately, an error with Phil’s sick pay resulted in him having to go 28 weeks without any income. “Whether to heat your home or have a warm meal is a tough choice to make. It’s a really hard way to live,” he said.
Having always worked full-time, Phil found it hard adjusting to this new way of life: “You have to go without everyday items like food, hot water, heating, and that’s devastating for most people.”
He found it particularly difficult during the winter months without being able to afford heating: “The way I came to live through the winter was by burning wood on the open fire, so it meant living in one room, which wasn’t ideal situation.”
It was very humbling and heart-warming to find out that places like the food bank exist.
Thankfully, his local advice centre referred him to his local food bank for some help, which was a big relief to him: “It was very humbling and heartwarming to find out that places like the food bank exist.”
Phil said he had never heard of the food bank before needing their help: “Using the food bank was quite upsetting for me because I always thought they were for homeless people on the street.” But he was glad the support was available: “You don’t have to worry where your next meal is going to come from and that’s a massive weight off your mind; you know you’re going to have warm food, so you can also maybe have hot water or heating for a few days too.”
Phil is grateful for the help he received from the food bank, so when he heard that they needed volunteers, he jumped at the opportunity to get involved. He said: “I always felt like I needed to give something back because of the way it’s helped me. I can’t give financially but I can give my time.” He now enjoys spending two days a week volunteering and told us: “I’ve helped people who have come in and because I’ve been in that position I can empathise with the clients.”
Although things are still a struggle for Phil he remains optimistic about the future:
My situation is a work in progress, but the support is there; to find out there are places that can help you with food and other things is amazing.
Coming to the food bank was just a great relief and nobody judges anybody.
Care support worker, Donna, saw her life turned upside down when she was hospitalised after suffering from two mini-strokes. Forced to stop working and not eligible for sick pay, the 44-year-old, mother-of-three from Northern Ireland soon began to struggle.
I was always pretty good on managing and saving. But from not working, the savings were getting very low… Things had to be paid for and I didn’t want the kids to suffer. We had some food in the cupboard and freezer but I knew it was starting to get lower and lower. I wasn’t doing what I should have been doing as a mother.
Donna knew she had to ask for help.
It was either asking somebody for a lend with money and having that debt and struggle, or going to the food bank. So, I decided I would opt for the food bank.
Although Donna was nervous about going to the food bank, she is thankful they were able to support her through this difficult time.
I sat in the car park for about ten minutes getting the courage to go in, but the welcome that I got through the doors was just phenomenal… I felt so at ease. They listened and offered me tea. It was so nice and family-based.
As well as providing Donna with food for herself and her children, the food bank was also able to give her information on benefit support she was entitled to claiming, in order to get further help. Donna told us:
I left the food bank with my bags of food and felt very overwhelmed. I was so glad I had come here.
As soon as Donna’s circumstances had improved she signed up to volunteer at the food bank, explaining:
I wanted to give back as they have brought me out of the biggest situation that I did not think I would get myself into.
Donna is glad that things are much more balanced now. She enjoys volunteering twice a week and remains grateful for the support she received:
I’m not needing the food bank any more but I’m glad it was there when I needed the help.