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The value of a chicken sandwich

Winter can be a very hard time for people who are struggling with physical or mental health, as so many of our service users are.

Even when things are going well for someone, life can turn on a sixpence and real hardship returns.  

We have a few people on service with us at the moment where this is the case, and they are having a very hard time indeed.

 It feels tough for all of us when this happens.  These are big setbacks, involving homelessness, poor health and isolation. It leads all of us in the team to reflect on the impact of our work at The Food Chain. What it is we can offer at these very low points?

When I took part in the national 3 peaks challenge for The Food Chain last July, I reached a point, approximately 20 mins away from the top of the final peak, Mount Snowdon, when I had to stop and sit down, and I thought I just couldn’t go on.

I was so depleted both physically and emotionally that it seemed impossible to reach the top. I had never felt like that in my life before. It seemed there was simply no way forward, and no way back. I had come such a long way and done so much, and the completion of the challenge was tantalisingly close at hand but it suddenly seemed just impossible.

I think that feeling is one that many of our service users have to grapple with at times.  

Food Chain Trustee, Mark , and our mountain guide, Martyn were with me when this happened and they were just lovely in supporting and encouraging me. They told me that it would be possible, that all I needed to do was eat something and get some energy back and that then I would be able to carry on and reach the top. I didn’t really believe them.

Martyn gave me a sandwich to eat. It was a chicken sandwich – his own intended lunch, I expect – and it felt like eating cardboard. It was so hard to eat it. To even chew and swallow seemed a huge task . I think there were wine gums too. Usually a favourite for me, but more like pebbles in my mouth on this occasion. And energy drinks. We threw everything we had at the task of getting me going again!

It took what seemed like hours, but was probably about 20 minutes or so before it felt remotely possible for me to take some more steps. And so we did, very slowly, and with lots of help and encouragement from Mark and Martyn. I did reach the top and joined our equally exhausted team mates. Together, we achieved what we set out to do, and the team raised around £22,000 for The Food Chain so it was all very well worth it.

This small experience really brought home to me the connections between physical and mental strength, the absolutely crucial role of nutrition in our lives, and most importantly of all, the power of emotional support and the strength of a team working together. This moment encapsulated for me everything that The Food Chain is about.

So, as these pretty chilly winter days continue and our service users experience hard times, we will go on providing the chicken sandwiches and all that comes with them, knowing that we help people regain strength and carry on, even when it really feels like they want to stop.