My life on a plate

The stories food bank meals tell


When I was working, I ate on the hop. Sandwiches here, something there. I never made anything at home, but I’ve come to have to do that.

I’m not absolutely useless… I just don’t have the facilities. I’ve got an oven-microwave combo grill that was in the corner of the kitchen and barely got used, and a kettle.

They’ve even given me sachets of porridge, and it’s embarrassing, but they had to tell me how to cook them.

I thought you needed gas and a stove to make porridge. But you actually can make it in the microwave. So that’s the solution.

I’m trying to find work to get me out of this predicament. I’m more worried about eating than finding a job.

I went for an interview the other day, so let’s hope I hear something positive.

In the past year more than one million emergency food parcels were
handed out

The money that I escaped with was my housekeeping money. I couldn’t save. I was on a strict budget when I was in an abusive relationship.

I think we had about four weeks out of the home and ended up staying in a caravan. I applied for benefits but there’s a delay so in the meantime it’s come to crisis point.

All the funds I escaped with have run out. The food source is dwindling and I’ve exhausted all my friends and family for handouts.

While living in the caravan we basically ate picnic food. I’m able to do a little Tesco shop for about £10 and it’ll last us for three days.

I’m buying a lot of cheese and ham. It’s sandwiches, crisps, a piece of fruit and biscuits.
I feel like we are eating a lot better, healthier, because when there was domestic violence in the home we were shutting the kids up with sweets and bad food.

Luckily I’ve got qualifications I can fall back on, I intend on this being a short stopgap.

Within the next six months, as the court orders proceed and we know where our future is heading, then I can start being less reliant on the state, and become more independent.


I’m from the Ivory Coast. My children are British, but I'm not and I had to renew my visa. I had to pay the Home Office fees. They’re extremely expensive.

When you’re working but a bill comes, you don’t know what to do. I didn’t have anything to feed myself with, or how to get food for the children. I was depressed.

Our food is African-English, we mix the dishes. In the food bank, they don’t have everything we want from our culture.

With what they give us we can economise, then buy food from our culture from the market with the little money we’ve saved: yams, cassava, chicken meat.

The food bank gives us rice and then we can go home and prepare it. We make jollof rice. We eat that and feel happy. We know that we are home.

Around 5% of food bank referrals
are for the homeless

I’m staying in a tent down by the river. The tent was given to me by a homeless shelter in Chelmsford because they had no spaces, so they gave me a double sleeping bag and a tent which was a bit broken but I repaired it.

My number one food when I haven’t got much money is vegetables, plenty of vegetables. I’m not that bothered about meat and fish. I can eat pulses and beans.

There are plenty of things to survive on, I know a lot about mushrooms. I’ve got a standard army issue World War Two little cooker, then we just light a fire.

I like nettle soup. I just boil them and put them in with all the other vegetables.

I eat anything I can get cheap. I never used to eat anything, I was fussy before.

I’m a little bit worried [about winter coming]. I was homeless last winter but I got by.

When I had a place to live, I was out of my house because I didn’t want to be there anyway. I used to walk around the fields in the winter because I like the snow, it’s so pretty.

I like being outside, it’s nice and quiet, and you can see the stars.


I go to sleep at 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning. I don’t like the dark, so I stay awake until there’s proper daylight.

I couldn’t do that today because I had to come to the food bank. I feel all back to front.

I live on a lot of soups, because I’ve got a problem with my throat. It hurts to swallow. When I lay down it’s the worst.

I’ve been to hospital a few times. They’re putting a barium meal down me. You’re not allowed to drink, eat or smoke for eight hours before.

I can go without food for eight hours but I am an alcoholic so not drinking is going to be difficult.

I come to the food bank every three weeks. I don’t abuse it because there are lots of people who need help. If I’m desperate like I am this week then I’ve got no choice.