James initially turned to the food bank due to financial struggles stemming from a decline in demand for his freelancing skills in the entertainment industry as he aged.

Recognising the need for a career shift, he retrained at a prestigious art school in London. James was living on a student loan which he topped-up with part-time retail and event work while enjoying his studies.

Post-graduation, Long Covid forced him to leave his supermarket job, unable to secure Universal Credit and with his sick pay running out, he was forced to delve into his permitted overdraft, a debt he is now struggling to pay back.

There followed further health setbacks due to Covid and James found himself relying on Epping Forest Food Bank. 

Seeking alternative income sources, James is pursuing Universal Credit with assistance from Citizens' Advice and exploring a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for healthcare costs.

Frustrated by bureaucratic hurdles, he finds the process psychologically taxing.

Despite financial constraints, he valued the social connection and support at the food bank, where he feels he has had to learn humility and struggled to accept the help at first.

James really appreciates that people at the food bank help him to choose some extra items to add to his parcel which are just for him. He once received a tin of Irish stew and he felt really nourished and looked after as he ate it. Somebody donated it and somebody helped him select it, which had a positive effect on his mental wellbeing. 

James has applied for a grant from a foundation linked to his former employer, to address his health needs.

James is proactively looking to improve his health and engages in online yoga and gradually increases his walking, though exhaustion remains an obstacle, especially in natural settings like the forest. 

  • 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 of Epping Forest Foodbank.