Raymond Roberts had no food, no money and nobody to help him.
The 47-year-old had struggled for weeks, with benefit delays showing no sign of speeding up and was so worried he did not know where his next meal would come from.
He needed a lifeline.
And a Burslem foodbank was just that.
He said: “I owe a lot to the foodbank.
“They helped me when I didn’t have anything.”
Locally donated food, packed in three-day emergency parcels, have provided crucial help to almost 15,000 people in the last 18 months in Stoke-on-Trent.
Referred by professionals such as social workers, doctors, teachers or charity organisations, people in desperate need for emergency food help are given the basics they desperately need.
Mr Roberts credits Burslem foodbank for turning his life around.
After making his three-day food parcel last two weeks, he also used the advice and information given to him at the foodbank to secure a job, working towards a permanent full-time contract which he has now had for 18 months.
He said he believes his inspiring turn-around would not have happened if it was not for that crucial stability given to him by the foodbank.
Now a volunteer and regular face at the Burslem foodbank, Raymond gives back to the place that helped him in his time of need.
He said: “I’m now part of the family here.”
Foodbanks are the brainchild of Paddy and Carol Henderson, founders of the Trussell Trust. It took just one single phone call from a desperate mother telling Paddy that her children were going to go to bed hungry that instigated the first UK foodbank in Paddy’s garden shed.
With 25% of the West Midlands now living below the poverty line, foodbank use has tripled.
This sharp increase in need for food help was something that Noel Clarke, who recently opened a foodbank in Cheadle, felt he could not ignore.
He said: “I went with my wife to take collected food to the Stoke-on-Trent foodbank and on the way home wondered whether there were local people also suffering crises that meant they had temporarily no access to food.
“We found that people were being referred to the foodbanks at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stoke-on-Trent and Leek, but that there was a hidden need for foodbanks and the expense and difficulty of travelling prevents desperate people from getting the food they need.”
Many public meetings later, and with widespread support, the Cheadle foodbank opened its doors to anybody hit hard financially, regardless of background.
Mr Clarke said: “Zero hour contracts, benefit changes, alcohol or drug addiction, partner abuse, job loss – all or any can contribute to a person, and sometimes the completely innocent rest of the family, including children, fall into a situation of no money for food.
“Without foodbanks there would be more suicides, thieving, illness, deprivation and hopelessness.”
The help that foodbanks can provide, however, are still somewhat taboo as many people struggling feel ashamed to access the help that is available to them.
A 29-year-old woman who did not wish to be named, urges people to accept the foodbanks’ help.
She said: “When I first used a foodbank I was ashamed.
“But if somebody asked me I would say just do it.
“It’s better to have a little food off somebody else than none at all – they’re there to help.”
Removing the stigma in order to reach people in real need is something which Anne Danks, Regional Manager for the West Midlands from the Trussell Trust is trying to achieve.
She said: “There is a problem of hidden hunger in the UK.
“I’ve launched projects recently in places that you’d think are better areas. Some of the parts of our country where we think ‘surely people can’t be in need there’– they have got pockets of poverty and that’s where the hidden hunger is.”
As demand for food help becomes higher than ever, so does the need for donations.
Food can be donated through schools, churches, businesses and also through supermarket collections.
On February 22, Tesco Longton is taking part in the Tesco National Food Drive, which involves asking customers to buy one extra item of food with their shop to help provide those who need the most basic help with three days of security.