How Brighton food banks provide more than just emergency support

Real-life stories show how food banks help those in need with more than emergency food donations

By Sidonie East 

Sidonie East has been working with the Food Partnership recently as an intern researching  Food Poverty. As part of her role she visited the Purple People Kitchen, a food bank in Portslade where she talked to people about their reasons for visiting the organisation. Here are two of the stories she heard.

Names have been changed  to conceal identities.

With the help of this food bank I am getting back on my feet.

Alison found herself homeless after her marriage broke down and she lost her job.

“I haven’t been homeless for six weeks now and it is all down to the Purple People Kitchen.

“Before I became homeless I had my own house and a job... I had been married for 24 years and my partner left me for a younger woman. The house was in his name. When it went to court, he gave our house to his father as a gift. So I had nothing, I ended up without a penny. My job got harder because when I was first on the street I didn’t know anything about being homeless ... It was finding somewhere to sleep, finding somewhere safe to wash and storing your stuff when you go to work. I was late a couple of times and then I was ill so I lost my job. I have applied for umpteen jobs but because you are homeless, people don’t want to know.

“I didn’t know the food bank existed... I had been living on the street for about 18 months before I found this place. It was just accidental. I bumped into a man called Jim who worked here. About three days before I had been mugged and beaten up. I had 153 bruises, I was black and blue. Jim explained to me how to get a referral; I could go through my job centre. The job centre had never told me about the referral. I was living on £36 a fortnight, that’s all they give you because they stated I had no rent to pay – no bills. What they don’t understand is that when you are homeless you can’t cook, so actually you need the same amount of money as an unemployed person because you have to buy your food. I was living on £18 a week, which is really hard when you have to eat plus buy toiletries... So I came here.

“There’s a free meal every Friday and tea and coffee when you come here. Because they knew I had no cooker and no fridge they provided me with food that would last during the week. Jim had somebody’s old gas cooker and [another volunteer] had the gas for it, so then I had a little stove of my own. I could then take tins of soup, baked beans, anything that you could cook in a saucepan or a pan. They gave me a sleeping bag, toiletries, honestly this place is amazing and I can’t fault it at all. I have just found out I have colon cancer so I have a restricted diet but they always make sure there is enough fruit and veg for me, because that is all I’m eating at the moment. With the help of this food bank I am getting back on my feet. I haven’t been homeless for six weeks now and it is all down to them. They are absolutely amazing and brilliant; I don’t know what I would have done without them”.

I’m a part time worker with 4 young children juggling everything

Debbie and her young family are facing hardship after her husband suffered health problems.

Debbie is a mother of four children aged under seven. She works part time at American Express and her husband is self-employed. In March her husband underwent a routine back operation but complications left him paralysed on the left side. As a result he is currently unable to work. However, the family haven’t qualified for ESA (sick pay for the self-employed) because Debbie’s wages are just over the living allowance. They began the application process for PIP (Personal Independence Payment) in March but are yet to hear whether they qualify or not.

“Every single penny that comes into the house is allocated for. I was behind on my electric bill prior to meeting up with The Purple People Kitchen because I have to choose what to pay for as I’m still not getting any extra government help. My food bill has dropped dramatically because of these people here. If it wasn’t for them I would be behind on my bills. It really has been a life saver.

“I have been coming here since April and they have made me feel so welcome... It is the little things that take the pressure off. Patrick, one of the volunteers has given me his mobile number in case I am running late, for example, if I have to pick up the kids from school. He will make sure I at least get something. I have nothing but praise for the foodbank and volunteers. Even when they offer you a sauce or a vegetable you wouldn’t necessarily know about, they tell you ways to cook it or give ideas for dinners, that’s helpful as well.”

“You don’t realise until help is really needed there are really kind people out there. I didn’t know places like this existed. Even though they don’t know you personally, they pull together and help. They don’t have to do that. They have been absolutely amazing, they really have. They are such kind people giving up their time to help others. Hopefully my life will change and I won’t have to bother them anymore and other people can come in my place. I will never forget them and if I can do anything to help them I would.”

July 2017