Tears rolling down her cheeks, mum Katie Friend reveals the true cost of austerity.
In an emotional outburst she reveals the measures she resorted to just to feed her son.
Katie and husband Mal ate tinned casserole and powdered mash potato, while two-year-old Theo unwrapped presents from the charity shop on Christmas Day.
They were later forced to resort to emergency food parcels to give Theo a birthday party to disguise to him they were living on the bread line.
And today, Katie, a trained nursery nurse, tells how the family would have gone hungry if it wasn’t for the volunteers at the Gateshead Foodbank.
The 24-year-old, who now works part-time in a laundry, is telling her story to erase the stigma associated with foodbanks and to help other families in need.
Katie, whose husband has now found a full-time job, said:
“I have been brought up not to ask for help. I come from a proud family and when you’re struggling you just have to get on with it.
“My husband is very much the same but we had to swallow our pride – not just for us but for Theo. He needed food.
“I came down to the foodbank and I was actually shaking. I was terrified, I felt so embarrassed and ashamed and felt like such a bad mum.
“I thought I would come in and find homeless people queuing up. I came in and it was lovely and bright and I was greeted with a smile.
“It was the total opposite of what I thought it was going to be.”
The Friends were plunged into poverty when their benefits were sanctioned just days before Christmas last year.
Katie desperately tried to hide the fact she was struggling until organisers at St Chad’s Community Project noticed something was wrong.
And as she faced Christmas without any food she plucked up the courage to visit Gateshead Foodbank in the centre of Gateshead.
Volunteers provided her with emergency food parcels to get her through the festive period.
“We were sat having sandwiches. I was sat with my husband and my son cuddled up on the sofa watching the TV. My son opened presents from the charity shop.
“He appreciated them and we had a good day.
“When I think of what somebody else had at Christmas and what we had at Christmas I think it’s hard for somebody to believe that’s what we did.
“Everybody expects everyone can afford to have that day but not everyone can. We would have been able to afford that if we hadn’t have had that sanction.
“I’ll always remember that Christmas, the Christmas we couldn’t afford to have.
“We had tinned casserole and powdered mash potato but we could have had no food. I had a smile on my face on Christmas morning and I wouldn’t have had that if it wasn’t for the foodbank.”
The benefit sanction was lifted after Christmas and Katie and her husband began to get their lives back on track.
But in a second blow – just months later – the family had to resort to handouts when their welfare was recalculated.
And with Theo’s birthday just around the corner and food to find for a pre-planned party Katie received help from the foodbank again.
“It takes over your whole life. People say your in a dark place but you don’t see anything else going on. When I look back I was really down.
“I had the idea that the foodbank was just for homeless people and we weren’t entitled to anything. People donate the food to help people in your situation and you shouldn’t feel bad.
“It has been given for a purpose, you don’t have to feel bad.
“I’m so glad I swallowed my pride. I wasn’t a bad parent, I was a better parent for providing for my child and getting help.”
She added: “I’m just a normal person and just one of many people that got into this situation.”
The foodbank, which has been open nearly two years, is ran by volunteers from churches in Gateshead. It works with care professionals, GPs and the Citizens Advice Bureau to distribute food to those families in need in the town.
They provide three days of emergency food to people who find themselves in need.
For more information, call 0191 487 0898 or email email@example.com
Source – Newcastle Evening chronicle, 17 Oct 2014