Thank you: How you answered the call to feed Norwich’s hidden hungry at Christmas
16:50 23 December 2013
copyright: Archant 2013
Thank you – those are the simple words to our big-hearted readers this Christmas. They come from us, they come from the staff at Norwich Foodbank, and they come from the families in need whose desperate cry for help you have answered.
“When the safety net gets larger, and people start falling through the holes, local people won’t let it happen.
“They say they want to help their neighbour in need: we’ll do something about it.”
For Grant Habershon, project manager at Norwich Foodbank, the response to our Christmas appeal has delivered a simple message.
“It really has been a community effort to help those in the community that are in need.”
It’s a need that is growing – with more than 1,000 asking the foodbank for help this month – but one which will be met, thanks to the astounding generosity of our readers and people across the city.
By collecting one tin at a time, forgoing their own Christmas treats, or encouraging friends, schoolmates and work colleagues to dig deep, they have ensured that everyone visiting the foodbank will be able to put food on the table this Christmas.
More than 10 tonnes of food have been donated to Norwich Foodbank since December 1 – and with trolleys at the warehouse still creaking under the weight of uncounted donations and more food arriving every day, bosses expect the total to rise by several tonnes.
Those unable to donate food have made donations online, boosting the charity’s coffers by more than £2,000, which will be split among the nine foodbanks run by the Trussell Trust charity in Norfolk, Waveney and Fenland.
“The response has been absolutely tremendous – a lot better than we ever thought it would be,” said Mr Habershon.
“Everyone seems to have picked up on it: businesses, churches, individuals, families.
“A number of people have been there before, others have said ‘we just don’t want anyone in Norwich to have nothing to eat at Christmas’.”
Since the campaign launched two weeks ago, the charity’s Norwich warehouse has been a hive of activity – handling an unannounced half-tonne delivery from a supermarket here, unpacking 100kg from a church there, and countless donations of a bag or two from individuals just passing by – but the tireless volunteers know their work is feeding adults and children across the city.
They have had to open extra hours to deal with the non-stop arrivals, and find extra warehouse space to store the food that will keep them stocked well into the new year.
The number of selection boxes and Christmas treats donated means that family foodboxes in January will include chocolate for the first time, because of there is so much left.
Mr Habershon praised the volunteers, including businesses who have offered their staff for warehouse shifts, which has ensured the warmth and generosity of people in Norwich reaches those who need it most.
“It means so much to people in need to know that local people really care about their situation,” he said.
“Our distribution centres are saying they are seeing people in tears, and all we are doing is giving people some food.
“We’ve given them Christmas pudding, or cake or mince pies, and people are overcome by it all. It’s made some people’s Christmasses.”
After 8,000 this year, the foodbank expects to feed 10,000 in 2014 – for which it will need 75 tonnes of food, meaning the Christmas spirit will give the charity healthy momentum for the new year.
“Each year we need more food because the demand is there, but we are finding that more people are starting to do regular donations – every Easter and Christmas.”
Driving food poverty further up the agenda also offers hope that action can be taken to stop demand rising further.
“The debate that has happened has been fantastic: it has challenged the MPs,” said Mr Habershon.
“We are an apolitical organisation but we are saying there are people going hungry, suffering enormous benefit delays in some circumstances. We are not looking at pointing fingers but we are looking at sorting out those issues.”
The foodbank supplies emergency food boxes to people with nowhere else to turn, either because of unemployment, benefit delay or a sudden change in circumstance.
“There will be people who are waiting on their benefits hitting their banks on Christmas Eve, and if it doesn’t, what will they do?
“They are relying on us, and it’s great to know we can help.
“We have seen the community responding to the community’s need.”