Norwich Foodbank will feed 8,000 people this year, and 10,000 next year, using food donated solely by the public. But should the city be proud of its generosity or ashamed at the food poverty that demands it? MARK SHIELDS reports.

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How you can help..

Take your food donations to the places listed below or to our head offices in Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich.

You can make cash donations online at http://localgiving.com/charity/norwichfoodbank

For every donation up to £10, Local Giving will match it and claim Gift Aid (where applicable) – so your first £10 means £22.50 for people where you live. The money will be split between foodbanks according to demand.

Norwich Foodbank

Unit 14, Henderson Industrial Units, Ivy Road, Norwich

01603 251733

Cromer

Methodist Church Hall, Corner of Holt Road & Hall Road, Cromer NR27 9DT

info@cromerdistrict.foodbank.org.uk

07826 376343

East Suffolk

Gunton Baptist Church, Montgomery Avenue, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR32 4DZ.

01502 537798

Great Yarmouth

Gorleston Baptist Church, Lowestoft Road, Gorleston NR31 6LY.

Liztownson400@yahoo.com

07786952306

King’s Lynn

5 St Anns Fort, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, PE30 1QS

info@kingslynn.foodbank.org.uk

07582558143

Mid Norfolk

Wellspring Family Centre, 35 Neatherd Road, Dereham, Norfolk NR19 2AE

info@midnorfolk.foodbank.org.uk

01362 850624

Thetford

Bishop’s School Arts Centre (Abbey Estate), Canterbury Way, Thetford IP24 1EB

info@thetford.foodbank.org.uk

0844 288 9618

Waveney

DC3 Vinces Road, Diss, Norfolk IP22 4HG.

info@waveney.foodbank.org.uk

0845 269 1078

Wisbech

Wisbech Baptist Church, Hill Street, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire PE13 1BA

info@wisbech.foodbank.org.uk

07810087274

Most company bosses would be rubbing their hands if their businesses had seen the growth that Norwich Foodbank has in the past three years.

When it opened in 2010, its two distribution centres served 33 people; three years later, there are 11 distribution centres in the city, which together fed 766 last month alone.

The city foodbank was the first to be set up by the Trussell Trust in the county; now there are nine in Norfolk, Fenland and Waveney.

But project manager Grant Habershon is the first to admit it is no cause for celebration.

“We are probably an organisation that everyone would be happy to see go out of business,” he said.

To see the shelves of the charity’s Norwich warehouse stacked with public donations demonstrates the scale of the response – but also begs the question: why do we need these foodbanks?

Mr Habershon said there had always been a need, but that economic conditions had seen demand soar – in particular since benefit changes came into force in April.

“There will always be people who have a sudden change of circumstances and will need help before the state safety net comes into operation.

“Previously people had a safety net, but the recession means that number has gone down: if that person has a crisis, they have nothing to fall back on.

“Combined with things like the bedroom tax, the economic crisis and the cost of living going up, people have less to fall back on.”

In a city like Norwich, which has traditionally had pockets of great need and where four out of 10 children live in poverty, the effects have been stark.

“They’ve had to cut and cut and cut and they’ve used their reserves: now they have nothing left to fall back on if they get a sudden bill or expense. That’s when they turn to us,” said Mr Habershon.

Nearly 40% of Norwich Foodbank’s referrals come as a cause of benefit delays, and Norwich’s two MPs have taken the matter up with the Department for Work and Pensions to speed the process up.

The foodbank is not intended to top up welfare – if someone is receiving all their benefits, they must learn to live within their means, says the charity.

It also restricts users to three parcels to prevent dependency, and works with care agencies to make sure people have the tools to sort their long-term problems.

Describing foodbanks as a “sticking plaster”, Alan Waters, deputy leader of Norwich City Council, said it was time for a debate over their rise – and to tackle root causes such as poorly-paid jobs and benefit reductions.

“If you were a cynic, you could say the government is able to put through swingeing cuts and changes to employment rights and social security because there’s a safety net provided by the generosity of local people in Norwich and beyond,” he said.

Mr Waters said the authority was helping through maintaining council tax reduction, offering money advice, making its housing energy efficient, and initiatives such as the energy-bill Switch and Save and benefits take-up schemes.

He added: “I hope people will show their generosity at Christmas, but also send a message to our local MPs that this isn’t sustainable. The government needs to make sure people get the support they need in the long term.”

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said she had “endless admiration” for Norwich Foodbank and its volunteers, but that tackling benefit delays could reduce demand at source.

“I have had meetings to get it improved and found out why there are delays to people getting their rightful benefits,” she said.

However, she warned against turning the foodbank cause into “a political football”, saying that increasing demand was not solely down to benefit cuts and insisting reform was necessary.

She said: “I have supported welfare reform in Parliament because it’s right for the taxpayer and it’s right for those who can work to do so.”

Norwich South MP Simon Wright echoed the concerns at “unacceptable” benefit delays, and encouraged people to back the Norwich Evening News’s appeal for donations.

He said April benefit reforms alone could not be blamed for rising demand, and pointed to state pension and income tax changes which had alleviated some pressure on household finances.

He added: “The foodbank does a superb job, but nonetheless they are there to serve people who are in very difficult circumstances.

“We need to help people not get into those circumstances and, when they do, to get out of them as soon as possible.”

33 comments

  • If anyone got house to them selfs with spare rooms , all they got to do is rent them out ! spareroom tax then paid for

    Report this comment

    billythebookie

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • Rolf ? Keep 'em coming John.

    Report this comment

    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • What is the criteria for having access to the food bank? Is it just possible to go and receive food?

    Report this comment

    norman hall

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • How can there be poverty when there is free healthcare and education? A roof over the head of anyone from the globe {criminal or otherwise} who just turns up on our shores with a sob story, if British people were put first and the only immigrants we let in were people we actually needed housing would be in plentiful supply and much cheaper and people would have more money in their pockets. The word `poverty` is almost as abused and overused as the word `democracy`.

    Report this comment

    John Bridge

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • The problem here is that a certain sector of society expect cheap council social housing for life. If people only got cheap public sector housing for a limited period (12 or 24 months) before the rent started to increase to a realistic market level, this would encourage people to purchase or use the private rental sector. Perhaps the country would be in a much better position, if benefits also reduced on a sliding scale over time - maybe a little encouragement to work rather than live on other peoples taxes!

    Report this comment

    Norfolk John

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • More pressure on Government is needed from our Norfolk Members of Parliament,focusing in on rural and city poverty alike, they should know the picture on the ground. Foodbanks are only a temporary fix and they do link claimants with other agencies. There is however only so much hard pressed volunteers can do.Well done to all concerned. What chance more single bedroom housing,throughout Norfolk in the foreseeable future that might help to make a difference?

    Report this comment

    bedoomed

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • to daveg , even MPs state there is a massive shortage in one bedroom properties, which means people are trapped and have no option to pay bedroom tax. also if you are on benefits where do people find the money for a removal firm.

    Report this comment

    che bramley

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • Rolf is spot on.

    Report this comment

    samphirelover

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • Just a few points, there is a lack of one bedroom properties held by councils or housing associations all over the country. If you need to apply for housing benefit (or move because you are over occupying whilst in work) and you are over occupying your property it is not as simple as moving into a smaller property because there are few available. It is not as simple as going into private acc either because almost no landlords accept those on benefits. You also have the stupid catch 22 situation that if you full into rent arrears because your rent is not covered by HB the council will not let you move while in arrears which means your debt just gets bigger to the point you may be evicted. One of the only pots of money that have increased is discretionary housing allowance, but it is discretionary and the council do not need to accept your claim for assistance and even if they do this will only be temporary. You also have those that are disabled who need the rooms, those who have children that visit part of the week, second bedrooms that are only big enough to have children up to age 2 (but are considered a bedroom). I could go on... Now in regards to the food bank, you cannot just turn up for food. You have to be referred by another organisation that provides assistance. The irony of this is that those who provide assistance are getting less funding whilst demand is at a premium. The food bank is not a supermarket, it is there to help those in a temporary situation and those people are expected to seek help and assistance to ensure that they either get out of the situation they are in or that it does not happen again. However with all the benefit changes over the last year (not only to those who survive on just benefits but those who are in work but are on a low income) and the cost of living going up, the gap between surviving and not has decreased. Rather that moan about those who are on benefits, please people have a bit of understanding. Its never as simple as those the statement 'benefit scroungers'.

    Report this comment

    avaroe

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • I just wonder whether these people could have handled the War Years !

    Report this comment

    Albert Cooper

    Sunday, December 15, 2013

  • Frank N Sense is actually the troll previously hilariously known as Jenny Talia ( gedddit ? ). We know this because one of his posts under the latter name actually actually transferred to the new name. Probably works for the EDP as no one else can alter the name attached to already posted comments.

    Report this comment

    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • Just a few points, there is a lack of one bedroom properties held by councils or housing associations all over the country. If you need to apply for housing benefit (or move because you are over occupying whilst in work) and you are over occupying your property it is not as simple as moving into a smaller property because there are few available. It is not as simple as going into private acc either because almost no landlords accept those on benefits. You also have the stupid catch 22 situation that if you full into rent arrears because your rent is not covered by HB the council will not let you move while in arrears which means your debt just gets bigger to the point you may be evicted. One of the only pots of money that have increased is discretionary housing allowance, but it is discretionary and the council do not need to accept your claim for assistance and even if they do this will only be temporary. You also have those that are disabled who need the rooms, those who have children that visit part of the week, second bedrooms that are only big enough to have children up to age 2 (but are considered a bedroom). I could go on... Now in regards to the food bank, you cannot just turn up for food. You have to be referred by another organisation that provides assistance. The irony of this is that those who provide assistance are getting less funding whilst demand is at a premium. The food bank is not a supermarket, it is there to help those in a temporary situation and those people are expected to seek help and assistance to ensure that they either get out of the situation they are in or that it does not happen again. However with all the benefit changes over the last year (not only to those who survive on just benefits but those who are in work but are on a low income) and the cost of living going up, the gap between surviving and not has decreased. Rather that moan about those who are on benefits, please people have a bit of understanding. Its never as simple as those the statement 'benefit scroungers'.

    Report this comment

    avaroe

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • I suppose that the reason some people have less money is because the last labour government bankrupted the country, let us not forget that a labour treasury minister left a message for his Tory successor that apologised for spending all the money and saying that there was none left

    Report this comment

    blister

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • Avaroe has probably made one of the most sensible statements on this page. I will add my bit, we never know how our lives can turn out, and one day you maybe working, to then turn up for work and your workplace is locked up for good. You are then needing assistance in the form of benefits to just LIVE day by day, think about that simple fact !

    Report this comment

    che bramley

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • DaveG you comment in fairness shows you have no idea about the spare room subsidy or bedroom tax whichever you want to call it. I will give you and many other a few simple and clear example. Say you are married have children and rent a Council property, your wife then leaves you taking the kids with her, you then have a spare room or rooms your children slept in. You then lose your job, you have no savings and have to claim benefits, including housing benefit and council tax benefit, well congratulations you now have to pay for each spare room now or move out of the home you spent lots of money making a nice family home in. Is that clear enough to you lot who thinks it just saves the Tax Payer money?

    Report this comment

    che bramley

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • Che - if you rent a social or council house and are on benefits you can rent out a spare room, they can no longer refuse, and yes, you will be a little better of even after the deductions!

    Report this comment

    catalonia13

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • It is not a bedroom tax, it is a reduction taxpayer funded benefits for people living in a property owned by the tax payers that gives them more than one bedroom per person living there full time. I feel for any genuine people having to turn to the food bank, but their need will always be overshadowed by the minority who are only food poor as they prioritise non essential items above putting food on the table.

    Report this comment

    DaveG

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • End the quota system on sanctions in the DWP offices and suspend all sanctions until clear,fair criteria for their use are agreed.

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • billiethebookie if you live in council or housing association property and are in receipt of benefits, you cannot rent out spare rooms as that breaches your tenancy agreement. however if you are not in receipt of benefits then you can. if you pay full rent and do not claim housing benefit you do not pay the bedroom tax anyway

    Report this comment

    che bramley

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • Albert - by dying, mostly. Society has become more compassionate, try to keep up.

    Report this comment

    Capac Raimi

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

  • Because certain people rather but FAGS,BOOZE and DRUGS before food

    Report this comment

    billythebookie

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • Che. I see why you are upset, but you miss the point entirely. The house is not yours to stay in, it belongs to the council (Ie The tax payer), you live in a house too big for your needs and should be asking to downsize to a one bed house. The only thing i disagree with in the policy, is that you might be penalised, even if the council does not have a smaller house to offer you. If they have smaller houses, then you are depriving a larger family of the house they need.

    Report this comment

    DaveG

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • Che bramley, while I understand the scenario you describe I would just mention that council houses are there for people who need them and should not be considered long term accommodation. Unfortunately the only way to secure long term accommodation is to buy, if you can't afford it you have to put up with what the landlords state in their agreements. People need to get rid of their luxuries before seeking free food.

    Report this comment

    Skoalbandit

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • Just a few points, there is a lack of one bedroom properties held by councils or housing associations all over the country. If you need to apply for housing benefit (or move because you are over occupying whilst in work) and you are over occupying your property it is not as simple as moving into a smaller property because there are few available. It is not as simple as going into private acc either because almost no landlords accept those on benefits. You also have the stupid catch 22 situation that if you full into rent arrears because your rent is not covered by HB the council will not let you move while in arrears which means your debt just gets bigger to the point you may be evicted. One of the only pots of money that have increased is discretionary housing allowance, but it is discretionary and the council do not need to accept your claim for assistance and even if they do this will only be temporary. You also have those that are disabled who need the rooms, those who have children that visit part of the week, second bedrooms that are only big enough to have children up to age 2 (but are considered a bedroom). I could go on... Now in regards to the food bank, you cannot just turn up for food. You have to be referred by another organisation that provides assistance. The irony of this is that those who provide assistance are getting less funding whilst demand is at a premium. The food bank is not a supermarket, it is there to help those in a temporary situation and those people are expected to seek help and assistance to ensure that they either get out of the situation they are in or that it does not happen again. However with all the benefit changes over the last year (not only to those who survive on just benefits but those who are in work but are on a low income) and the cost of living going up, the gap between surviving and not has decreased. Rather that moan about those who are on benefits, please people have a bit of understanding. Its never as simple as those the statement 'benefit scroungers'.

    Report this comment

    avaroe

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • If anyone got house to them selfs with spare rooms , all they got to do is rent them out ! spareroom tax then paid for

    Report this comment

    billythebookie

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • Are food banks fuelling the demand or is the demand fuelling food banks? I think if the recipients think they are getting something marvellous for free then looking at what is on offer I think they are going to be sorely disappointed. Handouts like this may make those involved feel good about what they are doing is not the answer. Their time and energy would be better spent sitting down with these people and giving them counselling about the way they manage their lives and their money. All that is happening is the politicisation of a perceived problem, not a real one. Poverty thankfully no longer exists as it did decades ago. Then it was a matter of having to find work or you did go hungry. No ifs or buts about it then. Too many people are living for today and forgetting about tomorrow.

    Report this comment

    BG

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • Rolf, our level of benefits is generous IF you have children,if however you are single it's a different story, it's £71pw, take off c£14 for the bedroom tax if your children have left home and you now have a spare room, then your council tax, electricity,heating, water rates,tv licence, phone of some sort, and trying eating out of whats left!

    Report this comment

    catalonia13

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • There is no such thing as poverty in this country. With our generous benefits system and hand outs how can this be? Why would all the dregs of society throughout the world want to come here if we had people living in poverty ?

    Report this comment

    Rolf

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • 1000;s of working people (who pay income tax) also have to pay the bedroom tax if they are on a low income Frank

    Report this comment

    catalonia13

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • Just a few points, there is a lack of one bedroom properties held by councils or housing associations all over the country. If you need to apply for housing benefit (or move because you are over occupying whilst in work) and you are over occupying your property it is not as simple as moving into a smaller property because there are few available. It is not as simple as going into private acc either because almost no landlords accept those on benefits. You also have the stupid catch 22 situation that if you full into rent arrears because your rent is not covered by HB the council will not let you move while in arrears which means your debt just gets bigger to the point you may be evicted. One of the only pots of money that have increased is discretionary housing allowance, but it is discretionary and the council do not need to accept your claim for assistance and even if they do this will only be temporary. You also have those that are disabled who need the rooms, those who have children that visit part of the week, second bedrooms that are only big enough to have children up to age 2 (but are considered a bedroom). I could go on... Now in regards to the food bank, you cannot just turn up for food. You have to be referred by another organisation that provides assistance. The irony of this is that those who provide assistance are getting less funding whilst demand is at a premium. The food bank is not a supermarket, it is there to help those in a temporary situation and those people are expected to seek help and assistance to ensure that they either get out of the situation they are in or that it does not happen again. However with all the benefit changes over the last year (not only to those who survive on just benefits but those who are in work but are on a low income) and the cost of living going up, the gap between surviving and not has decreased. Rather that moan about those who are on benefits, please people have a bit of understanding. Its never as simple as those the statement 'benefit scroungers'.

    Report this comment

    avaroe

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • Nice to see the scrooge society is alive and well in Norfolk while we are at it why not let OAPs freeze to death or sell orphans into slavery that would decrease the surplus population . Sometimes I am ashamed to be called British. If you do not wish to give to food banks that's your right but please don,t criticize people who care for their fellow man Bring back the workhouses bah humbug.

    Report this comment

    townie

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • if there is a real need for food banks in uk why are we giving so much aid to India and Africa and I understand china too when they are build aircraft carriers and sending up rockets to get weather reports ??????

    Report this comment

    dontcare.com

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

  • "Bedroom tax" - people living on benefits don't pay any direct taxes , why do you persist with this misleading misnomer?

    Report this comment

    Tudor Bushe

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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