While the start of the school summer holidays is met with excitement by children everywhere, for some parents in Eastwood and Kimberley it signifies the beginning of six difficult weeks as they struggle to put food on the table and have to resort to using food banks.
The school holidays can be a source of worry for many – organising childcare, keeping the kids entertained, refereeing arguments.
But for those whose children receive free school meals there is an additional worry: providing an extra meal a day using the same already stretched budget.
Each summer, the numbers of families using food banks increases as they struggle to make ends meet.
Full-time mum of five, Lisa Read, is one local who is expecting to have to turn to her local food bank at the Eastwood Volunteer Bureau in Wellington Place.
The 33-year-old lives with her partner Jamie Marriott, 21 and her five children – Tom, 13, Liam, ten, Lewis, nine, Sam, five, and three-year-old Lillymay in Eastwood.
Lisa has been using the food bank for the last couple of years in times of need when her budget just doesn’t stretch far enough, and she expects to use it once a fortnight over the school holidays.
She tells the Advertiser: “I am worried because they have a full hot meal every day at school which I will have to provide over the holidays.
“Sometimes I do worry about them going hungry, and we would struggle without the food bank.”
“If it wasn’t for this place then I think a lot of people would starve.”
She explains that the summer holidays are generally more expensive due to days out, but says that she knows she is lucky that she doesn’t have to work and pay for childcare as well.
Eastwood food bank provides food parcels to anyone who comes to them, is earning less than £110 a week and over 18 years old.
Lisa first needed to use the food bank when she changed over from job seekers allowance to income support which took a couple of weeks to be processed and left her without income for that time.
However, she admits that she was scared to use the food bank the first time due to the stigma surrounding it.
“I was embarrassed when I first used it – I don’t like to think that I am begging but I only come here when I need to.
“Sometimes when I don’t need a full bag I’ve just asked for bread.”
Lisa believes that a lot of the stigma attached to using a food bank is down to people abusing it.
She adds: “What really makes me mad is people who rely on it. We only come when it is desperate times, but some people don’t put buying food first.
“If you can’t afford to drink or smoke then don’t do it!”
Food bank manager Marlene Seagrave explains that the number of people using the food bank fluctuates depending on when people have been paid and they can give out between 20 and 35 parcels a week. Although the most common visitors are single people, they do see a rise in families coming in over the summer.
She says: “The food bank is essential because we take it for granted a lot of the time that there will be food and most of us have never known hunger.
“You cannot really know the circumstances of what is going on in their lives, but this is about making sure everyone has enough to eat.”
Marlene, who has been running the food bank for four-and-a-half years, says she hopes that food parcels will help ease the pressure on low-income families this summer.
She added: “It is about not always having to say ‘no’ if the children want an ice-cream or a drink when they are out, and being able to have fun with them.
“I’ve got a vision of a place where we have a warehouse, people can come and get a food parcel, can have something to eat in a soup kitchen and we can be the local distributor to those in need.”
If you would like to donate items to the Eastwood food bank there are collection points at the Volunteer Bureau, Morrisons and the Co-op in Eastwood, Sainsbury’s in Hill Top or Sainsbury’s in Kimberley.
What’s in a food parcel?
A tin of baked beans.
A tin of soup.
A tin of tomatoes or potatoes.
Tin of fruit/jar of jam.
Then a choice of four meals: either pasta, rice, spaghetti or potatoes.
As needed – toiletries/toilet roll/saucepans.