Jack and his wife have three children, recently they have faced financial challenges while prioritising their children over their career opportunities.

The couple have had to reduce their working hours as they have no other family living locally and are not able to afford childcare. Their main focus is providing their children with “a good education and mental health support.”

While Jack's wife works part-time in retail, Jack often works nights. Balancing childcare and finances has been a struggle, exacerbated by benefit cuts and a benefits cap set in 2017.

High rents absorb most of their benefits and a two-child cap on child benefits leaves the youngest without any support.

Jack discovered Epping Forest Food Bank four years ago during the pandemic while he was volunteering making deliveries for families in need. He never dreamed he would need the food bank himself but benefit cuts, rising living costs, and rent increases made it difficult for the family to cope financially.

They turned to the food bank when faced with choosing between rent and food. Despite cost-of-living payments, they couldn't catch up with their energy and water bills and soon fell into debt. “Each time we made a step forward with the finances, something happened to set us back” , he says. 

Dependent on the food bank, Jack needs to visit every three to four weeks, discreetly to make sure his children never find out.

Despite setbacks, he values the support, finding the food bank a lifeline that not only provides essential items but also offers helpful advice and a supportive community.

Although Jack initially questioned whether he was letting his family down, the positive atmosphere and assistance from friendly individuals, including expert advisers, have helped him navigate tough times.

While he remains optimistic about the future, Jack acknowledges the growing need for food banks due to systemic issues.

He emphasises the importance of prioritising support for struggling families, hoping that when his youngest starts secondary school, he and his wife can take up more hours at work and the family's financial situation will improve.

  • At Epping Forest Foodbank, we are seeing more and more people come through our doors. If you need assistance, call Help Through Hardship on 0808 208 2138. If you would like to help with our work through donating your time, money or food items, visit our website: eppingforest.foodbank.org.uk

Jane Evans is a trustee at Epping Forest Food Bank