Vital is a word that is often used when describing Ilkeston’s Arena food bank, which helps local families put food on the table in times of hardship.
But it couldn’t have been more accurate than when one service user’s story prompted a Commons debate.
Billy Lee-Moyes, 24, is unemployed and desperate to work. Until he does he can’t afford to feed himself properly.
He told his story to Advertiser reporter AMY HIRST and shadow public health minister, Luciana Berger MP, when she recently visited the Arena community food bank.
“I come here every Tuesday and every Friday (the food bank’s Belfield Street base) and that way I know I’ve eaten two good hot meals a week,” said Billy.
“There’s people here that need it more than me though, for some of them this is it and they don’t have anything else all week.
“I’ve been trying to find work for ages, I applied to 70 places one month and barely heard anything back.
“I took on agency work but they’ve only put me on a zero hours contract, the other day I was on the bus on the way there and they rang and told me they didn’t need me and they can do that because of my contract.
“But while I’m there I can’t work anywhere else and it impacts on the benefits I can claim as well.”
Billy said his story is typical of food bank users and his friends. “We want to work but places make it hard for us to,” he said “We’re stuck in the system and need a lucky break to get out of it.”
After Luciana’s visit she raised Billy’s story in a debate in the House of Commons.
She described the fact that more and more people are turning to food banks across the country as ‘shameful’ and demanded action be taken.
Speaking to the Advertiser she said: “It’s hard to believe when you sit and talk to people and hear of their experiences.
“One man here today has told me that he and his friends go to the back of the Iceland supermarket to get food out of the bin.
“We are one of the most developed countries in the world and people living here are resorting to rummaging in skips to be able to eat.
“Billy’s story just goes to show that people are willing and want to work but they are being denied that opportunity.
“More needs to be done to support these people and help them get jobs, earn a steady income and support themselves.
“What Lisa and the team here do is fantastic and this service is vital to many members of the community but the truth is their roles in shouldn’t have to exist, people should not be in this situation.”