Video and Gallery: Mid Norfolk Foodbank is meeting a growing demand
Archant © 2014
After celebrating its first full year of operation, a Dereham-based charity has highlighted the community effort which is helping meet a growing need for emergency food among those in financial crisis.
The Mid Norfolk Foodbank has become a lifeline for people whose problems could have been sparked by anything including redundancy, benefit delays, or unexpected bills.
To cope with a steady rise in both donations and demand, a team of 50 volunteers is working to bridge the gap.
During a typical week, about 200kgs of donated tins, packets and jars are sorted on a Monday at the collection centre at the Dereham Community Hub on Rash’s Green.
Everything is categorised by food type and sell-by date to ensure that each individual’s emergency package is fresh and nutritionally balanced.
The food is then distributed on Mondays and Fridays in Dereham, Mondays and Wednesdays in Fakenham, Tuesdays in Swaffham,
During the last year, the foodbank has:
-Given food to 2,152 people locally including 641 children – equivalent to 20,000 meals.
-Collected or received 27.1 tons of food.
-Given out 19.4 tons of food, packed in 2,200 emergency food boxes.
-Organised for 42 care agencies across Mid Norfolk to issue vouchers to those in need.
Project manager Dave Pearson, a 65-year-old retired civil engineer from Mattishall, said: “One of the things that has struck us over the year has been the generosity of everyone. It is seen in the volunteers, but also in the numerous individuals and organisations that donate food.
“For example, when we were collecting at a local supermarket a retired couple took one of our shopping lists. Twenty minutes later they returned with two deep trolleys full of food and toiletries. They walked over and removed one carrier bag off the top. They then left the two trolleys for us. When we checked with them, they told us that they had been saving their heat allowance all last winter. Foodbank had helped their son and they wanted to show their thanks.
“Outstanding acts of generosity happen regularly. They don’t always involve large amounts of food. Sometimes they are a small collection in a plastic bag from a primary school child at a Harvest Assembly, or a person who has secured a job after 18 months and wants to give something back. To these people, and many others like them, we would like to say thank you.”
Recipients are referred to the foodbank from agencies including Citizens’ Advice Bureau, councils, housing associations or charities like Age UK. Those in need are issued a voucher which entitles them to a package of food which will last three days.
Mr Pearson said: “The biggest group of people are those having changes in their benefits. A lot of them, through no fault of their own, have had their benefits changed and the bedroom tax is having a big impact.
“Some people are on low incomes and when they get a big utility bill they suddenly find they don’t have enough money to survive the week, and they don’t know what to do. We get a lot of normal families who are facing the choice of paying the bills or feeding themselves and their children.”
One of the regular volunteers is Lynda Dimes, 64, from Toftwood, who first became involved through the Dereham Trinity Methodist Church. She said “When I retired, I was interested in getting involved in a community project. There are so many people who have got into financial trouble with all the various cuts, so this is very much at the forefront of people’s minds. I felt this was a very good way of helping people in need.”
The foodbank is always looking for volunteers to join the team, which at Dereham often includes students from the Fred Nicholson School, who help with the sorting and packing of food as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.
For more information, to enquire about food vouchers, or to volunteer, contact 01362 850624 or 07542 106107 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.