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Hygiene poverty: The people forced to choose between their hygiene and their food

PUBLISHED: 12:32 25 April 2019 | UPDATED: 12:32 25 April 2019

Katie Mathers has been helping run the four drop-off points in King's Lynn. Photo: Katie Mathers

Katie Mathers has been helping run the four drop-off points in King's Lynn. Photo: Katie Mathers

Katie Mathers

A west Norfolk initiative is aiming to banish hygiene poverty - when someone is forced to choose between buying food or buying items to keep them clean.

The drop-off point in The Body Shop, High Street, King's Lynn. Photo: Katie MathersThe drop-off point in The Body Shop, High Street, King's Lynn. Photo: Katie Mathers

The Hygiene Bank has been helping to banish hygiene poverty and period poverty since the beginning of 2018 and has since distributed more than 13 tonnes of hygiene and personal care products around the country, and in November 2018 the first 'drop-off' points were launched in King's Lynn.

Katie Mathers, 32, from King's Lynn, saw a post on social media and knew she wanted to help.

“I wanted to see if anything was set up in the town,” she said. “Because as far as I could tell there wasn't anything specifically for hygiene items.

“I contacted shops and businesses around King's Lynn to see if they would be interested and so far we have one in Wilko, The Body Shop and Ring Associates in the town centre and one in Tesco's at Gaywood.”

The drop-off point in Tesco's Gaywood. Photo: Katie MathersThe drop-off point in Tesco's Gaywood. Photo: Katie Mathers

The stay-at-home mum collects the items, which she then sorts through and distributes them between four beneficiaries - The Purfleet Trust, the Pandora Project, the YMCA and Change Grow Live.

Mrs Mathers said: “I have had hundreds of items that have come through me since starting this. There is a lot of hygiene poverty within King's Lynn and it's not just men, women or children, it's across the board.”

On public holidays such as Mother's Day, Easter and Christmas, Mrs Mathers makes gift-bags to hand out and said people's reactions would often leave her heartbroken.

She added: “I think for some people they don't realise it's happening because it isn't within their social circle or if it is it's being hidden from them. “Also some people are embarrassed to acknowledge it as they feel guilty for not helping.

The drop-off point in Wilko's in the Vancouver Quarter.. Photo: Katie MathersThe drop-off point in Wilko's in the Vancouver Quarter.. Photo: Katie Mathers

“I think it's a mixture and brings in the complex issue of mental health, it's very wide and the longer I do this the more I find out, the more I want to help.”

People who would like to volunteer to help, or businesses willing to house a 'drop-in' box, should contact Mrs Mathers at THBkingslynn@gmail.com or visit www.thehygienebank.com

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