Family had just £2 a day to feed children

Coun Matthew Tomlinson, who has given �1,000 in grants to the Leyland food bank, with of the volunteers at Leyland St Mary's Church, Broadfield Drive
Coun Matthew Tomlinson, who has given �1,000 in grants to the Leyland food bank, with of the volunteers at Leyland St Mary's Church, Broadfield Drive

“It got so bad that we were having cereal for breakfast and nothing else all day, just so that the kids could have a meal at tea time.”

Before Sally and Ben Brook discovered the food bank in Leyland, they had just £2 a day to feed their family, and were on the verge of losing their house.

The couple, who moved to Leyland four years ago from Sheffield, used to hold steady jobs, but struggled to find work once they moved to the town.

They hit rock bottom last year when they were issued with a repossession notice, and their health was suffering as they weren’t able to afford enough food to feed themselves and their two children, who are aged just seven and nine.

Ben, 37, said: “I was trying to find work for four years but doors just kept shutting. We built up a lot of debt and then the Bedroom Tax came along last April and really pushed the knife in.”

Ben added: “It was another bill to pay, and we were already so stretched.

“We were living day by day and it was a real panic at times.

“Sometimes, we only had £2 a day to feed the family, and me and Sally would have breakfast and then not eat again until the next day.

“The kids were having frozen meals for tea but we were really suffering.

“We had headaches and it really wasn’t good for our health. It was horrible.”

Ben worked as a tyre fitter in Sheffield but found it difficult to secure a job once he moved to Leyland.

“We’ve both been doing volunteer work but we couldn’t find paid work,” he said. “There aren’t as many options here as there were in the city.”

It was only when Sally was volunteering at a charity shop that she heard about the Leyland food bank, which is run from St Mary’s Church on Broadfield Drive.

The 37-year-old said: “It was a really hard time and we couldn’t even afford basic food really. We felt like we couldn’t get out of the hole.

“We didn’t think things could get any worse but then we got a repossession order because we weren’t keeping up with our bills.

“We were getting further and further into debt, but then someone mentioned the food bank.

“We were so desperate we didn’t even think to be embarrassed to ask for help.”

Sally, who used to work for an organisation which supported people with substance issues, explained that once she approached the volunteers at the church, she immediately felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

They even helped her and Ben with a payment plan to get them back on track financially, and the family were able to stay in their home.

The couple started receiving one food parcel each week, as they felt they ‘didn’t have any other option’ because they have no family in the area to lean on.

“I don’t know what we would have done without them,” Sally admits. “We were so grateful and relieved.”

Five months ago, Ben finally landed a job and now works at the Waitrose distribution centre in Buckshaw Village.

He said: “We received food parcels for about six months in total, but once I found work we decided to stop because we know there’s a lot of demand for the food bank.

“We’re not part of the church but they were so happy to help. I can’t speak highly enough of them and what they did for us.”

Sally added: “If anyone is thinking about going to the food bank but is feeling embarrassed, I’d tell them that it doesn’t hurt your pride.

“It’s certainly better than starving, and the volunteers at the church really take the stigma away.

“Don’t be desperate – get help.

“We’re also really thankful to anyone who donated food, because they were really tough times and I don’t know what we would have done without that support.”

- To donate food to the food bank, call in at St Mary’s Church during the week.

They accept non-perishable foods, vouchers from Leyland Market, or money so they can go out and buy food for the parcels.