“I never thought this would happen to us – we were both working, we’ve paid our taxes… If it wasn’t for the foodbank I don’t know what we would’ve done. I want to work again, that would sort everything out. Then we could prepare for the babies, get our house back. I don’t even have a hospital bag ready at the moment”
Last week, our foodbank was visited by Anna*, just six weeks before her twins were due. They will be her first children, and she and her partner currently have no home to call their own. They have been sofa surfing for the last few weeks because they hit financial difficulty when her antiques business collapsed and they were evicted from their home. Anna’s partner hasn’t been able to get enough contract work to support them.
It will soon be Mother’s Day, a day when families come together to celebrate the wonderful sacrifices that Mothers make for their children and loved ones. Gifts are often given, and perhaps a celebratory breakfast or lunch has been arranged. For many mothers though, it will again be a day when the stark reality of parenting in poverty is deeply felt.
I don’t think I have ever really gone hungry – or had to regularly miss meals. Sure, I come home after a long day at work saying ‘I’m starving’ but like most people, I don’t know what that means in reality. Now imagine this. You get up one morning and go downstairs to get the kids their breakfast, but when you open the cupboards, they are empty. Absolutely nothing on the shelves or in the fridge. What mother wouldn’t find that nightmarish?
What mother wouldn’t be moved to know that there are other mothers in their community, who are forced to send their kids off to school with no breakfast?
What about the mothers who go to bed having given their children little or no supper? Knowing that when they wake up there will have been no miracle and the cupboards will be as empty as they were the night before?
This is the reality for so many of the mothers (and fathers) who arrive at the foodbank. Desperate to feed their family and often feeling terrible about themselves for ‘failing’ to be a good parent; regardless of how little control they may have over their circumstances.
No-one turns up at the foodbank because it is a soft touch. I don’t think I have met a single person who wanted to be here. The self-imposed stigma of going to a foodbank can be huge – and for a parent it can be even greater.
What makes it even worse in some cases is that we see working mothers, and fathers, holding down several jobs and still struggling to pay all the bills and feed their family. It has been said that most of us are only one or two pay cheques away from a financial crisis.
For families managing on a limited budget, a child needing new shoes or new uniform in the middle of a school term can mean the difference between putting a meal on the table, or going without.
I look forward to a day when we are no longer needed, but we’ve just opened a new foodbank centre to help meet demand, so sadly that’s not looking likely anytime soon.
“I had to use the foodbank and they were very kind and supportive, without them my daughter would be without… They made me feel like there are people that care”
Our role at the foodbank is simply to serve – to provide food and support, and to be a listening ear at a time of crisis. Many of our volunteers are mothers – with children from newborn to adult. They understand the role of mothers, both the privilege and the burden that comes with it.
When Anna arrived at the foodbank last week, we were able to give her not only emergency food, but also housing and welfare advice, as well as nappies and baby basics to help the couple prepare for when the little ones arrive.
This Mother’s Day we will be doing all we can to continue bringing hope and help to mums who are struggling to put food on the table.
If you’d like to join with us and help a mum in crisis, we’d love you to donate toiletries and food: Hammersmith & Fulham Foodbank
*Anna’s name has been changed