A father who lost his job weeks before Christmas has described breaking down in tears on his first visit to a food bank and only being able to afford to eat toast for dinner.
Wayne Baker, 38, who lives in Thurrock, Essex with his partner Zoe, 32, and his 12-year-old son Cody, was made redundant in November 2022 from his job in construction as a hod carrier.
He said he went in to work one day and around half the team lost their jobs.
"We went from a team of 48 to a team of 22," he recalled.
“I worked there for eight/nine years, so it was a bit of a shock to the system."
He lost his job in the first week of November, just a few weeks before Cody's birthday and with Christmas right around the corner.
Mr Baker said Christmas was a "really bad" time as they were unable to give Cody everything he wanted, despite him being understanding.
After losing his job Mr Baker was instructed to use a food bank.
He said he broke down in tears when he plucked up the courage to visit one because he was "embarrassed".
“It was hard to swallow," he said.
“I think I cried the first time I went, I felt quite embarrassed as I thought: ‘Really, I’ve got to this stage?'”
Since losing his job Mr Baker has lost three stone because he regularly only eats one meal a day.
He said food banks have been a big help, but added there is still a "constant worry" about when and where the next lot of food is coming from.
He said: “I regularly have only one meal a day – one week, I had toast for a week straight, for dinner.
“I would make sure my son ate three meals a day and my partner because I’m not working, so I think I don’t deserve to eat as much as the others as he is going to school and my partner is going to work so they need the energy, and I have lost three stone in the past two months.
“We also had no heating for three weeks because we could not afford it.”
Mr Baker said it has been "hard" getting help but thanked Thurrock Council for their support.
"I have been helped by a woman called Heidi at Thurrock Council. She put me through to (crowdfunding platform) Beam and has helped me throughout the whole process,” he said.
“She put me through to the food bank and she bought me a Christmas hamper so I could eat on Christmas Day, but the last two months have definitely been a struggle.”
Beam create an individual fundraising profile – which is also known as a campaign – to help people struggling with social issues including homelessness and migration, with members of the public donating to support them with their goals.
Mr Baker hoped to raise a little under £600 and in the space of eight days, the target was reached.
The funds are to be used to pay for items including his Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card, a laptop to complete his training and apply for jobs and safety boots.
“I didn’t expect the money to be raised so quickly by roughly 30 people,” he added.
“It just shows that even though there is a crisis going on, people are still willing to help. It’s a nice feeling and hopefully when I am back on my feet I can do the same for someone else.
“I could not really ask for help or money from friends or family as everyone is struggling with the cost of living right now.”
Mr Baker also spoke about accumulating over £2,000 worth of debt.
“The council have been quite understanding as I am without a job, but it is a debt that I will have to pay back. It is still hanging over my head."
He has also had to sell a computer, TV and “jewellery that has been handed down to me just to get a bit of money” and was given an eviction notice in the second week of November, which led to further stress for the family.
More information about Mr Baker’s fundraiser can be found here.
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