Our Toy Appeal isn’t just about the gifts people are given – it also helps to let those who receive them know they’re not alone. Here, mum Joanne explains how, for her, the Toy Appeal ties into her beliefs about community, and the wider support that Family Action provides.
Support without judgement
We’re not supposed to parent alone, or even as a couple – there’s supposed to be a community around you
There’s a lovely little community that’s built up around Family Action’s local FOOD club, and we’ve got to know each other’s names over the years. You get to speak to the same people, and there’s these lovely inter-generational conversations, where you’ll see retired people come along who’ll interact and play with my kids. It’s great to see those interactions happening in such a safe space.
The staff are so open and inviting, even if you’ve had a really rough day; there’s always a smile and it’s a relaxed, welcoming place. There’s no judgement about walking in there. I know it’s something special, as I volunteer for charities myself, helping people with things related to having children, such as weening, feeding, carrying and breastfeeding. For me, life is all about community. We’re not supposed to parent alone, or even as a couple – there’s supposed to be a community around you, and a lot of the hats I wear in my roles involve supporting that community.
Tackling food waste and financial strain
I’ve been there from day one at the FOOD club and, originally, I got involved because of food waste. There are six children and two adults in our household, and it’s difficult trying to feed that many people… The snacks alone are ridiculous! One of our children has ADHD and he’s medicated for that, so we have to be careful about things like his sugar intake and use more wholemeal food and carbs. I’ve also got long-term anaemia, so it’s quite beneficial for me when we have things like oranges too, as they help me absorb iron better.
Although we initially started because of food waste, it’s become as much about saving as our family has been placed under greater financial strain over the past few years
All that adds up to a lot of fresh fruit and veg, and we became conscious about the amount of food waste – we were buying stuff from supermarkets where it was only two days before it would turn. That’s why the FOOD clubs were perfect for us.
We’ve found that what they give you doesn’t go off any earlier – it’s just food that supermarkets overordered – and to my mind it’s better in our kid’s stomach’s than going to waste. Although we initially started because of food waste, it’s become as much about saving as our family has been placed under greater financial strain over the past few years.
Bridging the gap when higher salary means lower income
My other half had a pay rise… which SOUNDS like it would be a really good thing. But it took us right to the very edge of the tax bracket, and it meant we lost more money than we gained from the higher salary. It had a massive impact on us, and not just financially. It was tough for my husband as he thought he was doing his best for the family to try and make us more independent and move away from tax benefits and housing credits, but the reality was his trying to make a move and further his position in the company made us worse off.
Thankfully the FOOD club allows us to get fresh food cheaply for a small donation, and then tailor our main shop to fill in the gaps. A lot of my meals are based around what the kids will eat, and I think that’s because of the smells as well as the flavours, as my son isn’t keen on all smells. We do all like a good old cottage pie though, especially as the weather’s changing and it gets colder. We’ve also been making a lot of homemade soups for winter and, luckily, we also have a large freezer, and shop smart and freeze as much as we can.
The Magic of the Toy Appeal
The gifts we received from the Family Action Toy Appeal really helped, as we’d cut down to the essentials of things the children needed – they all got a book, but we also gave them things like duvet covers, dressing gowns, and equipment they needed for school. We’ve tried to cut costs across the board, and don’t buy for extended family, as it’s easier for everybody if they don’t have to find the money. For example, my partner and I just get each other a token gift, you know, so the children get to see us open something.
In many ways the people giving to the Toy Appeal are like Santa, because the magic of that belief is really about giving.
Receiving gifts from the Family Action Toy Appeal meant that we could give them as fun things from “Santa” alongside our more practical gifts. In many ways the people giving to the Toy Appeal are like Santa, because the magic of that belief is really about giving. We tell our kids that Santa is all about giving, and that they will all become Santa in their own time. And I guess that’s why the Toy Appeal is so magical.
Find out more about our FOOD clubs, and how you can support our Toy Appeal