'I just haven't got enough to survive' - Bracknell woman turns to foodbank as cost of living soars

  • ITV Meridian's Charlotte Briere-Edney has been speaking to families struggling with the cost of living

The number of people using food banks has risen dramatically in the last few years, with one woman from Bracknell saying it's the only way she can eat as the cost of living soars.

Hayley would rather be at a supermarket, but some weeks coming to the food bank is the only way she can eat.

She's just one of thousands of households across the south, already being hit by the cost of living crisis.

“I felt ashamed, but I know I needed help", Hayley said.

"It was just really scary, but I'm glad that I made the phone call, I’m glad that I came. I'm glad that I got help and the food that I needed to survive.”

Kerith Community Church in the town runs a food bank three times a week, and has seen the number of people using their service triple since 2020.

Volunteers thought that as the country emerged from the pandemic, the situation would improve, but instead, they're helping more people than ever.

Thousands faced with soaring bills amid cost of living crisis Credit: PA Images

Skyrocketing energy bills, fuel price increases and inflation are likely to push many into poverty.

Residents in some areas are also seeing council tax, phone bills and other costs increasing more than wages or benefits.

Hayley's Universal Credit doesn’t cover the full cost of all her bills. She has no alternative.

“It's just awful, because if I haven't paid a bill, it makes me feel even worse. Then obviously it goes up and up and up.

"I phone up to the water company, for example, and explain to them that 22 pound for water, I can't afford that. And then I have to decide, right, is this going to go on food at this moment or is this going to go on the gas and electric. So it's always a struggle. Always.”

The Trussell Trust, a national food bank charity, says almost 2 million people in the UK are going without food , and one in six on Universal Credit have needed to visit a food bank since December.

The number of people using this food bank in Bracknell has tripled since before the pandemic

The food bank also sees many people who are in work come through their doors.

Sean, a chef, works full time at a high street restaurant, but still occasionally visits the food bank.

“Obviously, the money that I get, it doesn't actually cover the costs of actually living because gas and electric, that's obviously gone up. Phone bill, it's just gone up."

He and his girlfriend both have jobs in hospitality, but with two young children to care for, even their two salaries are not enough.

"Both of the money is still not enough to actually, you know, support all four of us for the month. It's tough, but we have to do what we have to do really to be able to survive.”

Many food bank users are in work, but still can't afford food

Sean says he doesn’t know where he’ll find the money if costs continue to go up.

“I think it’ll just mean more struggle, you know, just going to work, probably have to get another job. So that'll be what, three jobs per one household just to actually try and just live with the basics, really? You know?”

The food bank team say Sean’s case is not unusual.

Chris has been volunteering there for seven years, and has seen firsthand the increasing numbers of people coming through their doors.

"We thought once the lockdown was over the numbers would come down. It hasn't gone down at all. They're still steady," she reveals.

  • Volunteer, Chris describes what kinds of people come to the food bank

At the age of 90, pensioner Nesta Batten from Winchester has seen rationing and recessions come and go.

She watches her money carefully  - and she's now watching prices soar at the supermarket checkout. 

"The weekly shop - mine would have been about £25 to £30 - the last time I done it it was £39," she explains

Nesta says she doesn't know how she'd cope if her rent and council tax weren't covered by benefits.  

Her biggest worry is struggling to pay for the regular social events she loves attending - she fears older people will be forced into isolation. 

"I do think that will happen and especially people living on their own it won't be good at all."

The Lawrence family thought moving to the Oxfordshire countryside would be relaxing. Instead, their oil tank is filling them with dread.

“We used to order it, say, 1000 litres at a particular price, two weeks ahead", explains Rob Lawrence.

"Now they won't even give you a price because they don't know themselves what it's going to be, so you don't know what you're going to be paying.

"It's it's kind of pretty worrying, really."

Rob and Edwina Lawrence did not expect to be worrying about heating after moving to Oxfordshire

In the rural village of South Newington, they have no choice but to use oil to heat their home - and they monitor usage carefully. Rob tracks costs on a spreadsheet which lays bare the skyrocketing prices.

“So very roughly, it's gone up from about 900 to about 3000. It's more than three times the price."

"It's a huge difference and it's based on actual usage.”

"It reminded me of being a kid when we had only got a coal fire. And so you had it in one room," says Mrs Lawrence.

"And now I'm sort of going back into that way of thinking of which rooms do we heat and which rooms don't we heat?

Many households are being forced to turn down the heating to reduce costs

"I think that people who don't have pensions don't have a good regular income coming in. How the heck they're going to manage? It's frightening. Where's that money going to come from? What do you do? Do you choose to stay cold?

"It's the old thing about choosing between heating and eating. It's just not fair on people.”

They say the government should be doing much more to help. There is 5% VAT on energy, and many are calling on this tax to be reduced or scrapped.

Rob explains: “If the oil price doubles, the government's take is going to double. And there's an opportunity for the government to at least put some of that back by cutting the rate of VAT. There's no reason why they can't!

"I don't like the word crisis- it’s used all the time, but I think this time there really is a cost of living crisis and a poverty crisis. And I don't use that word lightly.”