People at food banks need support every day, not just during national crises

People left with no option but to use a food bank face impossible decisions every day. Do you skip meals so you can feed your children? Or turn off essential appliances so you can cover the cost of the bus for a job interview? When you don’t have enough money for life’s essentials, each day can feel like you’re fighting to survive rather than being able to thrive.

Many find it hard to imagine what that would be like. By inviting you to throw the dice yourself, you can better put yourself in the shoes of people facing serious hardship.

Roll the dice

What impossible decision will you face?

  1. Click the roll the dice button
  1. Your impossible decision has been made
  1. Read the story below that matches your impossible decision
  1. Share your impossible decision on social media by tagging @trusselltrust

Real stories

These are real impossible decisions faced by people struggling to afford the essentials.

Meet Dominique

Dominique is worried she won’t be able to feed and keep her children warm because social security payments don’t stretch enough, and lack of childcare options are keeping her from returning to work.

“With my son starting school, and their dad not providing for them, I’ve had to scrape the pot to buy him all the uniform he needs. If my son needs new shoes because his have fallen apart, as they’re the cheapest ones I could get, I won’t be able to afford them. If he has a school trip, he will have to miss out.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Martin

Due to his disabilities, Martin can’t work. Before Martin started receiving social security support he needed to cover the cost of essentials – he had no option but to use a food bank.

“The cost of living has gone up and your social security payments haven’t gone up to cover it. It costs more to be disabled. Some people can drive depending on their disability, but some people can’t. I have to rely on buses and trains and have to pay increased fares. Not having enough money for travel causes me to be isolated and excluded as I can’t even do my own shopping.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Terry

Terry lost his job due to Covid and has been signed off by his doctor as a result of severe anxiety and depression. He depends on social security payments to support his family, but the little income he receives means he’s left with no option but to fall into debt so he can provide warm clothing for his children.

“I have three kids and we only receive income through social security payments, which barely covers our food for the month. Some months I have had to use money from my credit card just to pay for some items like clothes for the kids.

I’m trying to get back into work but with my mental health issues and receiving no help, it feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Adam

Adam had to apply for Universal Credit when he was looking for a job after finishing university.

After paying his bills he had only £36.50 a week to live on – which didn’t include food, transport and travel.

Adam is employed now but still remembers how the small amount of income from Universal Credit payments held him back in his job search.

“If I needed to buy a smartphone then finding the money for it would be difficult. Buying a laptop would be virtually impossible. But it’s so needed.

Nowadays Universal Credit is online, and an internet connection is required to manage your claim. Also, employers expect people to have Microsoft Office, graphics editing software and Zoom on their computer, especially as job interviews have gone virtual during the pandemic.

Fulfilling your civic participation with just a brick phone is a thing of the past. Now if I had a job interview and needed suitable clothes and shoes, how could I afford to buy it? I don’t think I could.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Savannah

After being made redundant from the place she’s worked at for 15 years and left by her ex-partner, Savannah needed support to meet the cost of essentials for herself and her son.

But Universal Credit payments aren’t enough to cover the essentials and pay off the loan she had to take out while recovering from an operation.

“I want to work, but it’s been impossible to find the hours I need in another job due to the affordability of childcare and only being able to work certain times and days.

Most nurseries ask for £50 deposit to secure a spot and then a full month’s payment upfront.

I would have to not pay my rent for a whole month to be able to afford that, which is not an option.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Steve

Steve was working in security when he suffered a serious back injury that has affected his health ever since.

He needed the food bank when he first started receiving social security support because it couldn’t cover the cost of his rent.

“I have a serious back injury. My chronic pain condition doesn’t allow me to go back to work. The basic support I was getting wasn’t enough to live on.

I wasn’t able to cover the rent for my studio flat in Hammersmith. That’s when I went to the food bank. I went a few more times over the summer and was struck how lovely all the team were and that there wasn’t any judgement but compassion and empathy.

There is a stigma around people not working and needing social security.  It made me realise that I wanted to make a difference to others too. So, I started volunteering at the food bank and help them share their stories and listening to their problems.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Leanne

Leanne is a single mother and a full-time nurse. She is worrying about the cost of living and not being able to afford her bills as her wages don’t stretch far enough.

“I’m a single mum of two teens and work full-time as a nurse. Even though I receive social security payments to help with housing costs and am part of the warm home discount scheme, my finances just don’t stretch to afford school meals, clothes, travel to school, or the car parking at work.

I worked through a pandemic and my costs for heating and electric rose as the teens were remote learning, yet my wage didn’t reflect that. I’m mentally and physically exhausted trying to make ends meet. When my teens are at their fathers, I use water bottles and extra layers rather than heat the house. This is not living, it’s merely existing.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Faye

Faye is currently living in temporary accommodation with her family, which is poorly insulated and is in disrepair.

Heating is not a luxury we have allowed ourselves this month when the children are in school. I’m careful not to  use anything that takes extra electricity and use the local library for entertainment in the form of books under a blanket.

Most days now I eat once a day, if there is not enough, I will have cereal or a slice of toast as my growing children are a priority. Last month they needed new coats that had to come first.

My children keep me going – it’s a horrible feeling to feel like you’re failing them.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Lucille

Lucille was working as a secretary and a cleaner when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. When the pandemic hit, she had no option but to use a food bank as she had to stop working and isolate due to her health after treatment.

“I was working as a secretary and a cleaner and I am a mum. I was diagnosed with breast cancer, advanced stage. After treatment, I had chronic fatigue syndrome and no money, and bills were rising. Without the support of the food bank during the pandemic, I would have had to choose between food or a shower and clean teeth or clean laundry to wear. The odds-on beating cancer are now better for me and I have a brighter future.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Meet Melanie

Melanie is a carer for her husband and is worried the couple be able to cope after the increase in fuel and food prices.

“My husband had a stroke and I’m his carer. After rent, bills and food we have virtually nothing left. If an appliance breaks down or new clothes are needed, forget it. Insufficient social security support doesn’t help now that food and fuel prices have soared. We are not going to cope. My husband is already worrying, which after a stroke is the last thing he should be doing.”

Name has been changed to protect identity

Our social security system
should protect people
from having to roll the dice

The last two years has shown us the power that political choices can have on people’s lives. The measures brought in by the UK Government to help families on the lowest income during the pandemic and the cost of living crisis are the kinds of support that bring relief to many people at risk of having to use a food bank.

These moments show that change is possible and our voices count.

But if we are to ensure that no one has to face these impossible decisions, our social security system should be strong enough for all of us to rely on when we need a lifeline.

It should protect people from needing to use a food bank, keeping their heads above water if someone lost their job; if their income was too low or insecure to make ends meet; if they were sick or their family circumstances changed.

Our social security system should provide stability and security for us all, not just in a national crisis, but every day.

Spread the word

No one should have to roll the dice on their lives. Share your impossible decision on social media to say enough is enough.

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