Food banks: 'I went from earning €1k a week to living on £35'
A woman who went from earning €1,000 a week to relying on a food bank has said she will "never be able to thank" its volunteers enough for the help given.
Caroline had been living and working in the Netherlands, running an employment agency, when she became pregnant.
But after the end of a relationship and facing housing and health problems, she was living on "about £35 a week".
She said she would encourage anyone who was struggling financially to seek help from a food bank.
Caroline, who only wants to use her first name, said without support from Stoke-on-Trent food bank "I don't know where I would be right now".
"The volunteers are amazing people," she said.
"The biggest thing I can say in my experience is, you are not judged, no matter what your background is nothing matters, just that you are educated in where to go to get help and move you from that situation."
She was earning up to €1,000 a week, with commission, before becoming pregnant with her daughter who is now nine.
Caroline returned to England and about 18 months later became pregnant with her son, now seven, but the relationship with her children's father broke down and he remained in the Netherlands.
She said she had no support with childcare, and complications after her children's births left her unable to work full time.
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Rising damp in their privately rented home meant she was spending £400 a month on utilities and she had to top up the rental payments, which were not fully covered by housing benefits.
She said at times it felt like "chaos" where she had "no control over anything".
"I had ebbs and waves where we were living off barely anything," she said.
While volunteering at children's centres she was given her first token for the food bank.
As well as collecting food there once a month, staff also helped "signpost" her towards other support services.
"I was too proud to admit I needed help," she said.
"But I don't think that pride has a part to play these days in visiting a food bank because, if you need that help, it is one of the best places you can go."
Caroline, who now lives in Stone, Staffordshire, added: "I am hoping for a brighter future. I am settled, the children are settled, I don't have debts, it just feels amazing to be in this position.
"When I was at my lowest, I never would have seen myself being where I am now.
"But if it were to happen again, I will be going back to the food bank. The threat is always there for anybody; anything can happen around that corner."
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