Easter weekend should be about roast dinners, egg hunts and chocolatey excess, but for one Battersea mum sparing a pound to buy an Easter egg for her two sons could break the bank.
Claire* is one of the 104,799 people who have received emergency supplies from London foodbanks over the last year and times when families are supposed to celebrate make enduring food poverty more painful.
Both of Clarie’s sons are still in school and before she discovered foodbanks her family was forced to survive on just one meal a day, she often went for days living on hot water and sugar.
“We won’t exchange eggs or anything for Easter. It’s just too much financially, we can’t afford it. That extra pound for an Easter egg will go towards electricity or gas or something. We will be getting the supplies for a meal from the foodbank,” she said.
“For Easter we will do what we did at Christmas which is have an appreciation period. We literally just had a basic meal, no trimmings, no presents, no nothing.”
The 40-year-old mum was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension, lung failure, three years ago, forcing her out of work.
“You don’t go out to people and say ‘I’m hungry, I haven’t eaten for three days’ –
You fill yourself up with hot water and sugar.”
After benefits complications, she struggled to afford basic supplies and turned to the Wandsworth Foodbank in St Mark’s Church, Battersea Rise, for support.
“I was having one meal a day and my children were having things like cereal, porridge with water because we couldn’t afford milk. We had to choose between heating and having electricity in the house,” she said.
“I’ve got nothing in my home but when I go back today I’ve got enough now to last us all the way through and to have a nice meal when they get home. That’s what the difference is.
“They have been absolutely fantastic. They’ve literally saved me and my sons.”
Corinne Marshall, project co-ordinator of the Merton Foodbanks, said most guests have suffered a sudden change of circumstance such as bereavement or illness.
“We have a father-of-two who has always worked his whole life and he had a stroke which has disabled him. Half his body is paralysed,” she said.
“He told me the children always know when he’s been to the food bank because there are chocolate biscuits in the cupboard.
“It just kind of shows you what kind of treat that was, to actually be able to afford those.”
“I was a city banker, I was dealing with millions and now here I am at a foodbank.”
The Wandsworth and Merton Foodbanks are both part of the Trussell Trust group, a 400-strong network of services across the UK.
Run entirely by volunteers and food donations, clients can use the service up to three times within a six-month period.
For many it is an emergency service meeting an extreme situation.
“I once asked a man how he was doing and he burst into tears,” said one volunteer from the Wimbledon service in Elim Church, High Path.
“He said I was a city banker, I was dealing with millions and now here I am at a foodbank.
“It can happen to anyone. People come here from all different walks of life.”
The charity hopes that the Easter weekend will help more people to speak out, not be embarrassed, and get the support they need.
Ms Marshall said: “It’s when people ask ‘what are you doing for the holidays, what have you got planned’ that’s when people let slip that things are wrong.”
For Claire, it was only through talking to a neighbour that she heard of the Foodbank.
“You don’t go out to people and say ‘I’m hungry, I haven’t eaten for three days’. You fill yourself up with hot water and sugar just to give yourself that little bit of energy that you need,” She said.
“If I hadn’t said to my neighbour what I was going through, she wouldn’t have picked up on it.”
“I was having one meal a day and my children were having things like cereal, porridge with water because we couldn’t afford milk.”
In 2015 Wimbledon Foodbank fed 3,700 guests, a figure that is now rising as more people find themselves struggling to get by.
Although incredibly grateful for the 100 tonnes of food they have received since opening in 2011, Ms Marshall stated that they are currently low on supplies used to make a balanced food package for a user.
She said: “Before on the website we were listing about three to four things a week. Recently it’s been nearer nine or ten. We’re so blessed it’s just at the moment but we are experiencing a few key shortages.”
Current items on the site include tinned meat, fish and fruit and non-food items like shower gel and soap, for Claire everyday items like these can make all the difference.
“I got a can of hairspray today and I’m so grateful because I can use that in different ways around my home,” she said, now on her seventh visit.
“This place here is absolutely amazing and the people that work here are just fantastic.”
Information on opening times, donations and volunteering can be found on the Trussel Trust website, at https://www.trusselltrust.org/.