One 34-year-old mum from the Pudsey area spoke to West Leeds Dispatch about how she struggles to feed her young family. As the Dispatch continues its Feeding West Leeds campaign highlighting food poverty in the area, here we tell Rebecca’s* story…
“I’ve been fine all my life. Never had a problem until about a year ago. I’d always worked hard – I’d been in the catering trade since I was 16. Money’s always been tight but me and my boyfriend always got on alright.
“Then my two children came along. They’re the best thing to happen to me, they’re my life and I don’t know what I’d do without them. But I had to leave work to look after them – we had no childcare or family to support us and my other half worked shifts, so I had no choice. I loved my job but my kids came first.
“There was a delay in my benefits at the same time as my other half was off work with a broken foot. He’s on a zero hours contract and received no sick pay. Basically things got so tight that we were faced with eviction. We had no money for food. We don’t smoke or drink or have Sky TV – and the money we had always went on the kids. We never had the chance to save.
“We were living and sleeping in one room to reduce heating bills. The whole place was damp, you didn’t want to come home to it if you’d been out. They were bad times.
“Basically I was faced with not being able to feed my children. Any mum will tell you how frightening that is. You feel as if you’ve failed them. It’s the most basic thing in the world yet in Leeds at the start of this year we couldn’t do it. Part of me was angry – it’s sick, isn’t it?
“We got an emergency foodbox delivered. We didn’t know where it came from at first when they first rolled up on the door. Turned out it had come from soem volunteers down at our local community centre – they did it off their own bat. It was basic stuff like tinned food but it was great. It kept us going until he could go back to work again. It saved us, it really did.
“I’ve now got myself a part-time job so there’s a bit more money coming in, but it does worry me how it could happen again. It’s so easily done. If you watch those TV programmes you think it’s only scroungers and benefits cheats who get free food – but it isn’t. Anyone can find themselves in this sort of situation.”
* Not her real name. ‘Rebecca’ and her family asked to remain anonymous.
EDITOR’S COMMENT: Rebecca and her family have been through a hard time. She’s been brave enough to come forward and tell her story. I hope the emotion of the interview comes through and that it strikes a chord with people – the thought of your children going without food must be incredibly tough for any parent.
There’s no real punchline to this story. It’s not here to encourage you to give to some sort of food bank or whatever (although we will be looking at the vital work of food banks at a later date).
No, Rebecca’s story stands alone and the purpose it serves is simply to show how easy it is for honest hardworking families to face food poverty due to an unexpected change in circumstances. I urge people bear Rebecca’s story in mind as we continue our Feeding West Leeds campaign.
I wonder how many families in west Leeds face a similar situation?