Hungry Nation: Real stories of Coventry food poverty told on stage

Hungry Nation: Real stories of Coventry food poverty told on stage

Postby dutchman » Sun May 01, 2022 3:43 am

A sold-out performance is raising awareness about food poverty by sharing personal experiences

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Hungry Nation in Coventry features people who have suffered from food poverty and aims to bring discussions around food policies.

The group is associated with Foleshill Social Supermarket, which provides a bag of shopping for £5, feeding around 300 people every week.

The performance is on at Albany theatre until Saturday.

Roxie Ashby, a volunteer at the supermarket, plays the character Cassandra in the show. She first experienced food poverty at the age of 16, when she became homeless.

"I felt like my life was falling apart," she said. "I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere."

She was moved into hostels and relocated seven times, which made her depressed and her anxiety went "through the roof".

Although her life is back on track, the 31-year-old said she still struggled to feed her family and has had to sacrifice treats for her three children and days out.

The pandemic also brought fresh challenges when her partner lost his job.

"We still had to feed the children," she said. "We had less food in our bellies than them; they had to eat."

The mother-of-three turned to Foleshill Social Supermarket for help, and said she felt guilty the first time she used it because "it felt like I was taking food out of people's mouths".

Also taking part in the show is Tom Simkins, a freelance artistic performer who experienced food poverty when he was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.

It is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body, extreme tiredness and memory problems.

The illness stopped him from working but while he initially received benefits, they were halted after an assessment. He said that decision made him feel even worse.

"It felt like you weren't treated as a person any more and were not a part of society," he said.

The 37-year-old was not aware of food banks and his family helped him where possible.

"I don't really know how I got through it. I felt really powerless," he said.

"There were days where I couldn't get out of the house," he said.

Tom gradually restarted part-time work and also volunteers at Foleshill supermarket.

Jo Newman, director of Hungry Nation, met the stars of the show a year ago, explaining they were keen to bring real experiences to the stage.

She said she hoped to make people aware of the situation by communicating with an audience and talking to policymakers.

"Everybody's become performers, friends, like our own community, as we've been exploring these issues," she said.

"It's been such an amazing opportunity to work with such beautiful, talented people, and to get given an opportunity for them to share their stories."

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