When I was asked to shoot and direct a film about food poverty, I knew the team and I would be taking on a massive challenge.
As a society, we continue to stigmatise those who are struggling to stay above the poverty line, especially if they are collecting benefits or seeking financial support in any way. People are often made to feel like scroungers or a drain on society, so they travel in the shadows and try to remain unnoticed.
With every headline on the growth of food banks comes another on those who misuse them or play the system. Whilst there will always be those who are unscrupulous, the vast number of people we met on the ground in food banks and breakfast clubs across the country were adults and children just trying to exist in today's economic climate. They were proud members of society who had worked hard in their time. As can happen to anyone, life had simply dealt them a blow and they needed a helping hand.
The more time we spent on the ground the more we realised how challenging this film would be. Many people were so embarrassed that they had to ask for food that there was no way they would go on national television.
By making 'Breadline Kids' through the eyes of the children, we were able to uncover a tough subject through a section of society that rarely gets to express itself publicly.
But this brings its own issues and complexities, as a duty of care towards the children is paramount. There is always a fine balance between short-term crisis, and neglect.
With the vast majority of families we met it became immediately apparent how often parents were actually forced to neglect themselves – going without food rather than letting their kids go hungry.
In Haverhill Niomi spoke of the sacrifices her father made for her, often eating only one meal a day. For Tom it was clear, his kids came first, even if it meant swallowing his pride and heading to the REACH Resource Centre to ask for petrol money and food. One thing that was evident in all the households was how close the families were. This period of adversity had certainly brought them all together. Fighting Cancer is a tough battle in its own right let alone struggling for food and heat at the same time.
We knew early on that this was a film about hard choices: do I put food on the table or do I heat the room? Do I put food on the table or do I have electricity? (The irony here being that for many the electricity was what they needed to cook the food they could not afford to buy.)
For Cara and her Granny Lucy, life was a weekly game of juggling what little money they could bring in. Buying food to sell food to buy food was certainly a different way to fix food poverty but at least it worked for Lucy, though it did not really bring in enough to change their life, just a little relief for a day or two. I caught up with Cara post filming to get some still photos and she was her ever bubbly self, full of self confidence and belief but still relying on the electric running off the emergency.
Before we even set about finding children, we drew up an extensive protocol on how we would operate with the children's best interests in mind – something we had experience of from previous films we'd made about vulnerable children in British society.
I guess the true test of how well we succeeded has been measured by the children's reactions to the film and whether they see it as an accurate representation of their lives, and they seem to.
In fact, in Hull Rosie was well chuffed at how eloquent her sister Becky was and Becky just kept saying how sad she was for Niomi and how beautiful she was. I felt so touched to witness that moment of compassion. Even with the struggles they were going through their thoughts were just for the other kids.
This compassion could also be seen during our time in breakfast clubs and food banks. The cups of tea and friendly chat that Henry and his colleagues at the REACH Centre offer the people of Haverhill is almost as important to people as the food and financial support they offer. Something we witnessed in many of the food banks run by the Trussell Trust and independent organisations.
But the published figures may well be just the tip of the iceberg. Magic Breakfast helped us to access schools where we witnessed so many Heads and teachers going above the call of duty and in some cases personally supporting the kids themselves. There really is a vast tract of people in need of help who are not recognised in these official statistics.
In Hull the breakfast club run by Youth for Christ has become a social hub. As Anna the manager said, "Rather than people becoming dependent on it they actually become interdependent".
The breakfast club is open to all, a community hub then forms whereby people mix and chat and suddenly people are helping people and a community spirit flourishes.
The community garden that Rosie and Becky work in is a spin off from the breakfast club and helps teach those in the community not only about healthy eating but also reinforces pride in themselves and pride in what they can achieve.
The team and I feel very privileged to have been invited into these families' lives and have met some truly remarkable and inspiring kids who give us hope for the future.
As Cara said, "It is going to be tough" but the hopes and dreams still live on... for now.