HOW many times have you had to make the choice of feeding the meter or feeding yourself and your family?
For some families around the city it can be a frightening choice; one which the Food Bank is keen to alleviate.
We were invited to take part in a serving session at the Milton Keynes Christian Centre on Thursday, one of many held by the charity through the week.
These hour-long slots allow volunteers to speak to families who have been referred to them from various organisations, including Citizen’s Advice Bureau and the YMCA.
They are then given enough food to last them or their family for around three days. They can also pick up additional items at the ‘bonus table’, an area with extra food and sometimes toiletries.
One user said: “I’ve been receiving welfare but I had to go for an operation and my support was stopped because I couldn’t make the appointments.
“I either sit in the cold and dark and afford to eat or I pay my rent and heating and starve. I don’t understand how people can be expected to live like this.”
As the winter constricts its grip across the country the Food Bank is giving out more than 20 extra parcels with demand up by 19 per cent on this time last year.
John Marshall, pictured left, has been the project manager for the charity for the past year, but is still amazed by people’s generosity, especially during the recent harvest events which brought in an estimated 40,000 items.
He said: “The support that we get from people is absolutely unbelievable and we are so grateful for it all. The rule is that people can only come back to us five times in 12 months but life isn’t that simple.
“Sometimes peoples’ needs are much greater than that.”
One 19-year-old, who gave us his name as ‘Frankie’, was referred to the Food Bank through the YMCA, where he is staying.
He said: “My jobseeker’s money hadn’t come through and I didn’t know what else to do, I needed to eat so you do what you can.”
This is the second time he has used the service in the last few months and he told The Citizen how he felt walking in there for the first time.
“You have no idea what to expect,” he said.
“But people are so friendly, helpful and welcoming and this is such an important service. More people need to know it’s here.”
Daniela has been volunteering at the Food Bank for about a year.
She said: “I was looking to do some voluntary work, something worthwhile. A lot of people struggle now and throughout the year so it’s important to be involved.”
The Food Bank is the Citizen’s charity of the year and has received support from thousands of people across the city from MPs to volunteers.
Councillor Margaret Burke looks after the Stantonbury Ward and was at the Food Bank to collect groceries for a family in her ward who couldn’t make it to collect it themselves.
She said: “Services like this are so important for people across the city not just in my ward. When I go shopping I always buy an extra item and put it in the trolley at Wolverton Tesco (just one place people can donate). Just £1 can buy four tins of beans, it’s nothing really when you think about it.”
People can donate to Food Bank at a number of locations around the city, including Christ the Cornerstone Church, Asda in Bletchley, Milton Keynes Christian Centre, Acorn House and Wolverton Tesco.
You can donate to the charity by visiting www.mkfoodbank.org.uk