Today is my last day of maternity leave, and I am really looking forward to being back at work. I have joked on Twitter about spending a large proportion of my maternity leave in supermarkets, but it is in fact not really such a joke.
I have spent approximately 85% of my maternity leave so far in Waitrose.
— Laura (@CodeBoom) April 16, 2018
As sad as it may sound, supermarkets have been pretty good mat leave entertainment – free to walk around, lots to look at for a baby and you usually end up picking up a few bits and bobs you need as you walk around. Or at least it certainly appears that casually buying groceries is an activity open to middle class ladies on maternity leave. The more I went to supermarkets and “picked up bits and bobs”, the more I started to think, and some of these thoughts were uncomfortable. Every time I bought a few groceries on a jolly with my son, it reminded me that some families couldn’t even afford basic food and necessities. I have found maternity leave pretty hard going as it is due to a few injuries (which are now fixed, cheers NHS!), but I can’t comprehend what life must be like if you have to worry about where your next meal is coming from.
Another thing I’ve done a lot of on maternity leave is loiter around on Twitter. I noticed a few times people I followed had retweeted @BootstrapCook talking about food banks:
Food banks are CLOSING and EMPTY right now.
Please, if you can, text:
‘FBUK14 £5’ to 70070
to feed someone in need.
If you can’t afford to donate right now, a RETWEET is free.
I was a food bank user for months.
Your time/retweets/donations literally do save lives. Thankyou.
— Jack Monroe (@BootstrapCook) July 31, 2018
Food banks are not really something I had paid much attention to before, but reading these tweets really caused my thoughts to coalesce, so I decided to spend some time on my last day of maternity leave buying some food and donating it to a food bank. Off I popped this morning to Asda expecting to buy some tins of beans and packets of biscuits, but I certainly did not expect the feelings that accompanied the food. I had a budget in my head, and a self-scanning machine in my hand. I began scanning Smartprice tomatoes and I had about 8 tins in the trolley before I realised my shop so far had come to approximately £2. That was not even the price of a latte – so many of which I have consumed on maternity leave I have lost count. I felt overwhelmingly sad that in 2018 people probably just down the road from me are having such a hard time that they are relying on food banks for survival while I’m sitting in Waitrose having a latte.
In the end I managed to fill up my ENTIRE BOOT with food for the budget I had in mind. I chose to buy Smartprice food for the most part because I wanted to get as much as possible.
You might say “why are you writing a blog about this, you just want praise/you just feel bad and want to make yourself feel better”. I think it’s almost impossible to do something completely selfless – I did get pleasure from going shopping for this food in the knowledge I would be helping someone. However there is nothing whatsoever “feel good” about handing in food to a food bank. It’s the harsh coal face of life, handing in your bags of donations to be weighed whilst in the next room people are waiting to receive their supplies to sustain themselves for the next 3 days. Why am I in this room and they are in that room? Luck.
So really the point of writing this blog (and sorry, because it has nothing to do with my usual blogging topics) is largely to bring this to a tiny corner of your attention, just like Jack Monroe’s tweets wormed their way into a corner of mine. I challenge you to set yourself a budget you can afford and then go to the supermarket and pick up some food to donate. Look on the internet to find your local food bank and it will tell you which items they are in need of and which they have lots of in stock. This is a good list if you want some other suggestions, or you could donate money if you are short on time.