Victoria B on 12 January 2022

I don't know how I feel about this, I'm torn between gratitude and shame. I have lovely neighbours and in recent weeks they've taken to bring by their bags of food they aren't able to use in time, or food they've no space for. I never say no to free food, how can I these days, and I'm pretty nifty at making food that's on its last legs make a good meal, so I get why people see me as a good alternative to wasting the food (as anytime I say they don't need to they say they're rather I use it than see it wasted). And I'm grateful. Today was home made meat lasagna, Mac n cheese, a pack of frozen bacon, frozen bread and a pack of frozen hot cross buns. I was given a whole box of tinned items at Christmas from a local charity. And last week another neighbour dropped of a bag of items also with tinned items in it. We've now got plenty dry pasta in the cupboard, so on the weeks when I can afford to do fresh soups and curries and strews or whatever, I've some lovely pasta or noodle fall backs. More tins of baked beans than you could shake a farting bush at. Thus saving me money and reducing our little communities waste. Win win. Our little site also has a compost section and some veggie patches that were a delight in the autumn when we moved in, and we've been told they flourish in the spring and we can help ourselves too. Also near farms and green spaces, so some warmer weather it'll be ideal to take kiddies out for an adventure and see what wild foods we can find to use. Will need to do some more study on UK wild foods but we'll get there. But the shame I feel. Not cos anyone is making me feel ashamed, my neighbours are all very gracious and they act like it's no big deal to them at all. And I'm not the only person who gets this kindness in our little community, and, though rare, when I can I share also. So I shouldn't feel shame. Yet I do. I wish I had the ability to just switch off years of trauma and get into work, I wish I wasn't reliant on others for aid. I wish I was more the type of mother we're told we're meant to be, able to magically juggle household and children and career. But I'm not. I'm on the dole, I get food aid, my kids are on free school meals, they wear mostly hand me downs from strangers and donations, and I shouldn't feel ashamed and yet I deeply do. I'm grateful to have the help. I wish we didn't need it. But, silver lining, so far (touch wood) when my kids to have no idea what real hunger feels like, they know what not having much choice feels like but they've never had to skip a meal out if anything more than kids being picky n stubborn knowing they are guaranteed another meal within a few hours. I've managed to avoid kiddies going hungry so far. I skip meals to make things last when I need too and I manage to make space in my budget to allow them some luxury or experimental items (eg got some pysalis fruits for a quid, kids didn't like em so I made a small compote which we enjoyed with porridge). I really hope that this will help my kids grow up to not fear food or money the way that I do, prevent that trauma in a way. Food insecurity is harsh and it lasts for a lifetime. I'm doing the best I can, helped on by a supportive community, to prevent my children developing such unhealthy relationships to food that I have. Why do so many systems of authority seem to not realise that prevention is better than the cure. Want to reduce NHS wait times and emergencies, want to reduce crime rates and increase educational achievements? Then protect our children from hunger and cold and the trauma of watching their parents stress over every penny.

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