Thousands of tonnes of donated food is on its way from Norfolk to those in need across England as an annual charity appeal reaches its climax this week.

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Potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions, and other fruit and vegetables, pasta, tinned fruit, mince pies and sugar are among the goods which have been arriving at Tim and Ellen Jolly’s Roudham Farm, between Attleborough and Thetford, where volunteers have been spending this week loading it on to lorries.

Norfolk families have also been donating money to buy turkeys and all the

food will provide dinner for around 10,000 people on Christmas day, and perhaps 100,000 meals in total across the festive season.

The massive effort is organised by the Buckingham Emergency Food Appeal (Befa), now in its 26th year.

The food is distributed to shelters, hostels, and domestic violence shelters across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, and to projects in London and Manchester.

“Despite appalling weather and bad harvests, the generosity of farmers has been every bit as great as last year,” said Peter Bowles who, with his wife Polly, ran Befa for six years following the illness and death of its founder, farmer Mike Buckingham, from Swafield, near North Walsham.

“Potatoes are now worth three or four times what they were last year but people have given us the same amount.”

Among other donors, Pasta Foods in Great Yarmouth, had given 13 tonnes of pasta, and a bakery in Manchester had given 4,000 boxes of mince pies.

Children at more than 50 Norfolk schools, and one in Cambridgeshire, had brought in nearly four tonnes of sugar for the appeal which would be matched, up to two tonnes-worth, by Silver Spoon.

Hostels would have enough food to give residents a proper Christmas turkey dinner as well as being able to provide a “goodie bag” of festive foods to those in their care.

Organisers wanted to say a special “thank you” to the hauliers, many of whom did not charge Befa, for the vital role they played.

After an unsuccessful appeal last year for volunteers to take over the organisation from Mr and Mrs Bowles, Befa is now paying a part-time co-ordinator, Ken Smith, who started the Cambridge Food Bank.

Mr Bowles said the alternative would have been for Befa to fold and it did an immense amount of good work.

The couple are showing Mr Smith the ropes this year but they plan to take a back seat next year.

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