Help feed families in need this Christmas

food bank

Hopefully you’ll be spending Christmas Day surrounded by food, family and presents. But some families won’t be so lucky. In fact, more families than ever are going without basic meals, let alone Christmas Dinner. Find out where food aid is available, or help a family by donating some basic provisions.

Britain might be the world’s seventh richest country, but every day people go hungry in the UK. And it’s not just people born into poverty. It can happen to anyone if life deals you a bad enough hand.

Vickie’s story

We skip meals every other day so the kids don’t go without.

Take Vickie Robins, a 32-year-old mum of two from Gloucester. Both she and her husband are in work. Just over three years ago, they got married and were both in well-paid jobs. They bought a house and fixed their mortgage rate, as rates were still climbing then.

Three years ago, Vickie’s husband lost his job. He managed to find another position, but it paid £2,000 a year less. Then Vickie was made redundant while pregnant with their second child. Unable to find another job that paid enough to cover the costs of childcare, she found a job that allowed her to work late hours – so she only has to pay for two hours childcare until her husband can pick them up and care for them while she works until midnight.

Jobs are hard to come by, so Vickie has had to take an £18,000 pay cut. Worse still, Vickie and her husband have to wait until November before they can renegotiate their mortgage to a lower rate.

To make ends meet they have cut out as many luxuries as they can, and sold whatever they didn’t need – even the children’s toys. They are entitled to child tax credits but not working tax credits. In the last three months, Vickie has lost three stone in weight and her husband two stone as they both go every other day without food to ensure the children don’t go without.

See MyFamilyClub’s guide to Child Benefit

A short while ago, Vickie collapsed in her local Children’s Centre and was taken to hospital. Her pulse was hammering away at 140 beats per minute due to stress. Her doctors warned her that she could be heading for a heart attack if her stress levels don’t go down. While Vickie has been signed off work, she is still going – as she simply cannot afford the pay cut that receiving statutory sick pay would bring.

Vickie and her husband continue to skip meals to feed their children. She is dreading Christmas and can’t afford to buy her children any presents – she’s thinking she may have to just wrap up the old toys they haven’t managed to sell, so there’s at least something for them to open on Christmas day.

A national problem

Sadly, Vickie’s story is not that unusual.

A nationwide study backed by Tesco found that:

  • One in 10 families are skipping meals, as they simply can’t afford to buy the food they need
  • Many parents are putting their health at risk by eating only every other day in order to feed their children
  • Emergency food banks are being forced to ration the food they give to hungry families

If you need help, you’re not alone

If Vickie’s story sounds familiar, and you’re worried about feeding your own family, make sure you get help. See our guide on how to get emergency help with money this Christmas.

But don’t let your family go hungry. If you need food now, you can apply for emergency food bank vouchers that you can redeem at your local food bank.

You can apply for food bank vouchers from schools, children’s centres, doctors, health visitors, social workers, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and some job centres.

Vouchers can be redeemed for three days’ worth of emergency food.

Food bank staff will also be able to offer you additional advice and support if you need it, and will put you in touch with agencies to help you solve your food shortage problems over the long-term.

You can find your nearest foodbank here. Alternatively e-mail [email protected] or call 01722 580171.

My family doesn’t need food, but I want to help. What can I do?

You can donate food to your nearest foodbankThe following items are recommended:

  • Cereals
  • Rice
  • Dried pasta
  • Sauces
  • Tinned food
  • Soup
  • Fruit juice
  • Tea/coffee

Donating a bag of pasta and some rice might not seem like much, but your donation can make the difference between a family going hungry or not.

Chris Mould, Executive Chairman of Trussell Trust said: “Our foodbanks are seeing thousands more people in crisis turn to us for help.

“Every day we meet parents who are skipping meals to feed their children, or people who are forced to choose between eating and heating.

See MyFamilyClub’s guide: How to knock over £900 OFF your energy bills

“This winter is looking particularly bleak as food and energy prices rise whilst incomes remain static. We’d like to encourage everyone to give a can or two to help make this Christmas a happier one for people in crisis. Thank you.”

You can also make a cash donation to the Trussell Trust here (you can donate online, by phone, or by cheque).

Make a difference

“I cried with joy when our foodbank Christmas hamper was delivered,” says Mandi Clarke, a 39-year-old mother of two. “It was such a relief: we were going to eat beans on toast for Christmas dinner but instead we could have a festive feast.”

We were going to eat beans on toast for Christmas dinner…

Despite being a working family, reduced hours and salaries had left the family unable to make ends meet.

“We had to choose between paying for food, heating or rent,” says Mandi. “It’s so hard to tell your two young children that they can’t have any Christmas presents or a dinner like their friends.

“Thanks to our food hamper we could sit down and eat together as a family for the first time in weeks. We’d been telling the children we’d eat when they’d gone to bed, but the reality was we were going without. Salisbury foodbank made our Christmas, it was the best we’ve ever had.”

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