Even at the best of times, growing youngsters can get through quite an unbelievable amount of food. Add to that a global pandemic and a lockdown that keeps them confined to the house almost 24/7, and the food bills rise sharply.
For Ashley Armstrong (34) from Ballyduff in Newtownabbey, it was tough enough trying to provide for four hungry teenagers, but it was the cooker that really brought sleepless nights.
"In the midst of it all, my cooker blew up," she says.
"I was having panic attacks, wondering how am I going to cope with no cooker, with four kids in the house."
Ashley is a carer for her partner Edward (37), who is registered disabled, and the couple are locked down with her children Mark (15) and Sophie (14), and stepsons Carter (15) and Aaron (11).
A volunteer with Ballyduff Redevelopment Group, she was at the heart of efforts to get a youth club set up, but everything stopped when the outbreak hit back in March.
"We were in the middle of getting it all up and running, and getting the community centre fully functional, so that the kids could come in at night time. We were trying to get a youth club going and it all got put on hold," Ashley says.
Lockdown was a big adjustment, with the schools closed, four anxious children and weeks of homeschooling ahead - not to mention the soaring fuel and food bills. But it was there that the Bryson Fund was able to step in and provide a lifeline. Bryson Charitable Group has set up the Bryson Fund, an emergency provision which provides food, finance and emotional support to those most severely affected by the pandemic, investing £250,000 from its reserves to support community leaders in delivering relief in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
By June 10, Bryson had allocated £165,675 to community level funding, including £106,076 to deliver electricity, gas, oil, white goods, food and other essential items to some of the most vulnerable in our communities, as well as £13,115 for supporting existing service users across its Family Support, Sure Start and FutureSkills services.
Ashley first heard about the fund through her community group and was able to access help with the bills.
"You didn't realise how much extra money was going on gas and electricity - and the fridge never closes," she says.
"Bryson came in and helped and gave us money for gas and electricity - it was great."
After the loss of the cooker, she was able to turn to Bryson, which replaced it with a new one. Within three or four days of me telling them, I had a brand new cooker delivered to the door and they took the old one away and disposed of it. I had to do nothing - it was brilliant," she says.
Ashley admits the financial support from the Bryson Fund at such a time of crisis has made it much easier to cope: "I was a lot more at ease."
"It gave us a bit of a stepping stone to get ourselves sorted and back on a level track," she says.
"It was like that for a lot of people in Ballyduff - people weren't having to worry so much. It really, really did help."
It can be tough enough waiting out lockdown in your own home, but it was even more challenging for Sahra Mahamuud (39), who was living in a Belfast hostel with her five children at the start of the lockdown while trying to find more permanent accommodation.
Originally from Somalia, the care assistant had been living in Bristol and moved to Northern Ireland to be near her father following her divorce.
The family had lived in temporary accommodation in The Village area of south Belfast for five years but became homeless after the landlord sold the house. They have been living in a three-bedroom apartment in a hostel in the city since December.
"I used to work two nights in the Ulster Hospital as a care assistant there, but since I moved into the hostel I have had to stop working because my dad is not allowed to babysit in the hostel. So until we find another place, I can't work," Sahra says.
"One of the girls is diabetic, so I need someone with her that knows her condition and everything. Even if I have to go shopping I have to take all the kids with me - it's a very hard situation.
"Imagine being afraid and having children with a medical condition, yet you can't leave the children behind for a couple of hours.
"I have to take my daughter who is diabetic with me and if she gets coronavirus, she's one of the people who is at high risk of dying, so it's a very stressful time for us."
With a boy aged 16, girls Hana (13), Hayaam (11) and Hala (6) all at school age and one-year-old boy Harun to care for, homeschooling proved to be a major challenge. The children had no tablets, laptops or computers and the only way to access the internet was through Sahra's mobile phone, so it was virtually impossible for them to keep up with their school work.
"The girls weren't doing the work because we only have one mobile phone and they were all using it. It was hard to share for all the girls and hard to see some of the work because it's a small phone. They weren't really doing any school work," Sahra says.
However, local group SAWA encouraged her to apply to the Bryson Fund, which supplied the family with two tablets and a wi-fi dongle, along with food vouchers.
"It's helped a lot with the children - they were able to use the tablets and now they're catching up with their schoolwork. They've missed a lot, so they're doing a little extra every day to catch up," Sahra says.
"They're doing great. They are over the moon with the tablets, really happy. It's really helped us."
Single dad Nathan Anderson (27), from Rathcoole, was made redundant from his job as a machine operator in the midst of the crisis and turned to RATH community group for help, worried about how he was going to provide for his sons, Harley (6) and Eli (4).
The company was already in the redundancy period when the lockdown started and within a couple of weeks he was let go.
"Rather than having this grace period where you're able to plan, within a week or so I was told to come in and sign for redundancy and let go, so I reached out to the local community group," he says.
"They have been at the door and on the phone almost every day, trying to help with gas, electricity and shopping. I went from a full-time job to no job and on benefits - being a hardworking committed person, I couldn't even go over the door because lockdown was so intense. I didn't know what I was doing, where I was going, how I was going to provide for my boys.
"They were like counsellors, they were like financial advisers, they were like everything to me."
Members of the group helped him to go through his budget and plan what to do next while providing support from the Bryson Fund with the household bills.
"There was the gas, the electric and the shopping - the youngest one's birthday, everything came at once.
"I almost broke down over it but members of the group would be saying 'Calm down, here's what we'll do' - they were very professional, very caring," Nathan says.
The Bryson Fund provided support with gas and electric bills as well as shopping vouchers.
Nathan says: "I feel at ease and a bit more chilled now. At this stage I know what I have to do financially per week, what I want to do and how I'm going to get there. I've a much clearer thought process than before, where I was all blurry and didn't know what I was doing.
"They go through the budget, look at the long term, what you want to do, where you want to be and in the meantime they help you. They worked with me until I was firm in comparison to where I was - they've done so much for me.
"I'd love them to be more recognised for what they've done for people. I would love to see some sort of package for them from Stormont," Nathan says.
The fund has also been a much needed support for Laura Orr (33) and her family in Lisburn, who were struggling to make ends meet after her partner Michael (31) was furloughed from his job as a machinist.
With four young children - Jack (6), Noah (4), Miley (2) and six-month-old Hannah - the couple found themselves struggling to pay the bills when Michael's pay dropped to the 80% furlough level.
"Beforehand, Michael would have worked 15-20 hours' overtime for us to be comfortable through the week," Laura says.
"When this all broke out, about two weeks after lockdown was put in place, he was furloughed for six weeks.
"We were literally running on 80% of his wages because you are not entitled to any other benefits."
While Michael has since returned to work for the last four weeks, his hours have been reduced and he is now earning less than when he was on furlough. Their families were also unable to work and unable to help out financially.
"I had to go back to counselling for anxiety because we were really struggling. Noah has special needs and with the whole lockdown process, we were really struggling to make ends meet. Our rent was in arrears," Laura says.
However, their family support worker pointed them towards the Bryson Fund which was able to support them with food vouchers and an electricity top-up to get them through the lean times.
In the first week, the fund provided the family with a code that provided £45 towards the electricity bill as well as a £40 voucher for the supermarket.
They received another £30 food voucher two weeks later, followed by a £20 voucher last week.
Lisburn Sure Start Staff have also carried out family support services, door step check-ins and signposted the family for further support from Employers for Childcare.
"It's just not having to worry about topping up the electricity. That was another bill ticked off the list and we were able to go and get simple things like baby milk for our daughter which costs £8 a tub," Laura says.
"With Noah having special needs, we got through a lot of nappies - that was another big cost. Each of the two children - Noah and Hannah - goes through five or six nappies a day.
"I want to thank Bryson so much. They really did help me at a very tough time and I don't know what I'd have done without it."