Dominic Bareham, senior reporter
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Foodbanks across Norfolk and Waveney have reported an increase in the number of people coming forward to ask for food donations to help them cope over the Christmas season.
The Norwich foodbank has given food out to more than 6,000 in the last year - with food given out to 2,118 in the last four months alone.
On average, it gives out four tonnes of food to more than 500 people every month.
Project manager Grant Habershon said: “The need is growing all the time. What’s been tremendous is all the support we’ve had from members of the public. Over the Christmas period, we’ve had donations of mince pies, selection boxes, Christmas cakes, it’s been great.”
Mr Habershon said the need was likely to increase next year and they expect to give out food to more than 7,000 people due to forthcoming benefit cuts.
Meanwhile, representatives from Foodbanks in Cromer and Waveney believe the absence of free school meals while children are on their winter holiday has meant poorer families in the county have had to rely on Foodbanks even more than usual to enable them to feed their children.
Kevin Willimott, a trustee with the Cromer Foodbank, said during the three months from the Foodbank opening in August until early December, 170 people were helped, but during the week leading up to Christmas alone, 60 people were helped.
However, he added there had also been more donations arriving from generous visitors who had been knocking on the Cromer Foodbank’s warehouse door to provide more food.
The foodbank had also been running Christmas appeals asking the public to bring in Christmas puddings, sweets and Christmas crackers, while Mr Willimott said some donors had been providing more expensive food items such as nuts in jars and tins of salmon.
He added: “I think part of the spike that we have seen is that people are no longer able to get free school dinners over the Christmas period, while I think part is due to increased publicity as there were a number of people who just did not know that a Foodbank existed.”
Increased heating bills during the winter months were another reason for the increase, according to Mr Willimott.
Adrian Roy, a member of the Waveney Foodbank, said he did not have figures for the number of kilos of food distributed during December, but said during October 470 kilos were given to families, while in November there was 278 kilos.
He also believed poorer families were more reliant on Foodbanks at this time of year due to the absence of free school dinners.
He said the Waveney Foodbank had benefited from the generosity of donors including some who had stocked an entire trolley full of items to donate to the Foodbank during a visit to Tesco superstore.
“We have helped some people who have been in absolutely desperate situations and down to their last £1 on the gas meter,” Mr Roy added.
The donations are distributed to people who have been recommended to the Foodbank scheme by social care agencies, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.
The recipient is given a voucher which they can then take to a Foodbank distribution point to be exchanged for food.
Donations are taken to the foodbank warehouse, where they are sorted into boxes sufficient to provide a nutritionally balanced diet for three days for those who have hit life crises and cannot afford to eat.
There are different sized boxes catering for a single person, a couple or a family.
The Foodbank scheme was set up by the charity the Trussell Trust to help the 13 million people living below the poverty line in the UK and involves the charity partnering with churches to distribute enough food to last at least three days.