Swafield-based food appeal feeding homeless thousands over festive break

Thousands of homeless people are tucking into wholesome Christmas and new year dinners thanks to a north-Norfolk based annual food appeal.

Countless tonnes of potatoes, carrots, leeks and other fruit and vegetables have once again been donated by Norfolk farmers to this year's Buckingham Emergency Food Appeal (Befa), based at Swafield, near North Walsham.

The grub is now helping to feed homeless people and victims of domestic abuse across East Anglia and in the Manchester area - Befa chiefs estimate that last year they provided enough for 70,000 meals.

Peter Bowles, who co-ordinates Befa with his wife Polly, said many homeless shelters not only used donations to feed their visitors, but also made up food parcels to give to those 'hanging on by their fingernails against homelessness.'

Mr Bowles added: 'For many of them it's a question of heat or eat and this food can at least take away one of their anxieties for a while.'

Among 70-plus Norfolk projects benefiting from donations was the Winston Court hostel in North Walsham.

Walsham's National Farmers' Union office had used their farming contacts to gain pledges of donations from far afield, said Mr Bowles.

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About 12 tonnes of potatoes alone had been donated within a 10-mile radius of Swafield.

Donors included Bob Clabon who had been a supporter since Befa was first launched 26 years ago by fellow Swafield farmer Mike Buckingham, who died last year.

Other fresh produce came from all over East Anglia, including stacked pallets of mushrooms from Ireland, via a Lincolnshire merchant.

Norfolk schools have also done their bit by collecting four tonnes of bagged sugar, half of which was matched by British Sugar.

Cash donations were used to buy turkeys and other festive fare, and this year's new supporters included Lancashire-based bakery McCambridge which gave 4,000 boxes of mince pies to the cause.

This year Tim and Ellen Jolly also lent storage space on their family farm in Roudham, near Thetford.

The food was all collected in the week before Christmas and a laden 40-ft lorry was dispatched to projects in the Manchester area.

Mr Bowles thanked all those who had supported Befa and he appealed to anyone with time to spare in the last quarter of the year to get in touch.

He and his wife, who are both retired, would like a younger generation to take over Befa which they have run for the past six years, since Mr Buckingham became ill with cancer. They previously co-ordinated the sugar collection for many years.

Mr Bowles added: 'Young people have the technological and networking skills Befa needs for the future.'

? Contact: forbefa@aol.com

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