Kelly Blakeley, a Leeds local, has struggled to afford food for both herself and her cat since she lost her job at the beginning of the pandemic
Image: Samuel Port)
A woman who lost her retail job at the start of the pandemic “lived on beans and toast” so that she could still feed her beloved cat when money was low.
Kelly Blakeley, from Leeds, has struggled to afford food for both herself and her cat since she lost her job back in 2020.
The 41-year-old dowries on her cat Tigger, a tabby who she rescued from the streets, to the point where she’ll put his needs first.
The former retail worker, who now receives Jobseeker’s Allowance, told LeedsLive : “No matter what money I’ve got left over after paying the bills, no matter whether I could afford to buy food for myself, my cat came first and I always came second.
However, in August last year, Kelly found a lifeline in the form of a St Giles Trust Pantry, in Chapeltown, Leeds. The food bank lets people in need fill up two big bags of groceries for the small price of £3.50.
“So I could live on beans and toast for a fortnight so I could feed my cat. I’ve lived on beans on toast and eggs on toast.
“Since coming down here, as you can see, I’ve been able to get a full shop. With the cooked meat that they do, I mainly get it for my cat. If I can’t afford cat food, I know that my cat has got something to eat.”
The food bank, which is located on Saville Mount, has been open for around 18 months.
The staff understand that accepting help with necessities like food can be embarrassing and challenging for those in need, so they’ve tried to make the visit as nice as possible.
There’s a comfy sofa that people can sit on, along with a coffee table and a rug which make the center feel homely. Staff offer out cups of tea or coffee while they chat with people who come in for support.
Sybil Beckford, a grandmother-of-one and mother-of-three, said she was struggling to pay for food before visiting the food bank. The 74-year-old cleaner recounted how she would often be unable to pay the bill at the supermarket counter, surprised at the rising prices for food.
Sybil said: “This place makes a big difference.
“When you go into town to buy certain stuff, the prices keep going up. I’m one of those who pick something [an item] up in the shop and don’t look at the price. Then when I take it to the counter, I can’t pay for it.”
Staff at the St Giles Trust offer a range of services, which also includes offering support to ex-convicts who are rehabilitating into society, vulnerable women, children and families.
Gill Gaunt, the community service delivery manager, said: “We like to be informal so people can come in and have a chat to us, it’s all confidential, about any issues they may have. Some people come in who have issues around social services , around their children, and we offer a lot of advice.”
The 49-year-old, who has been a part of the trust for 10 years, added: “We wanted to make it feel like everyone who comes here could just have a chat with us. I’m sort of like a manager here but I’m just the same as everyone else.”
Eva Bennett-Gibson, who has been working as a children and families case worker there since 2019, can often be seen loading up people’s shopping bags with all the grocery items.
“People know they can come here and take home some food without being judged and not looked down upon,” Eva said.
“They know that we’re here with open doors. We’re supportive when people come in and take them around, make sure they know there’s support on offer all the time and we’re here to help.”