Another Day in the Life…

… Hannah, Project Manager, Wednesday 12th January 2022

8.30am In the office, catching up with colleague and on yesterday’s emails and messages including finishing prepping for talk to a church on Sunday, organising and thanking a donor who’s offered to help supply fresh items for a distribution centre’s community cafe and ensuring all relevant people are aware of a change in venue opening hours at another centre in relation to our weekly stock deliveries

9.30am Zoom call with area manager at Trussell Trust, chatting about current challenges / changes due to covid, e-vouchers, data reporting, stock management and communicating to our donors.

10.30am Continue with emails (‘can I do my year 10 summer work experience with you?’ ‘please make an urgent payment through Energy Bank for my client who is in emergency credit in their electricity account’, ‘I have covid and can’t collect my food parcel, can you help?’, ‘can we please reschedule this afternoon’s meeting?’) and admin tasks including job applicant shortlisting for interview, updating my calendar and to-do list for the week, scheduling a few posts for our social media channels this week.

11.30am Troubleshooting a new added security feature on the tablets used at our distribution centre for logging e-vouchers. Needed to do this by phone, email and on a spare tablet in the office. Success! One centre done, eight to go…

Chat with office colleagues about revamping the office to ensure best use of space for 3 permanent desks, 1 volunteer ‘hot’ desk and better storage. We will start moving desks and equipment later this week!

With an office volunteer, go through the latest bank account statements and ratify / reconcile / annotate expenses and income on accounting programme.

Finished the newsletter and printed copies for Sundays talk, along with copies of the Prayer Letter. Emailed out Prayer Letter to our mailing list.

Received a request for a client to have an Energy Bank voucher, but their supplier is one who won’t accept the vouchers we use (we’re not the only one with this issue). Spent 40 minutes on the phone to energy supplier to get nowhere… Arranged with the referrer a different solution.

4.30pm Loaded up the car with 15 food parcels out of 26 to help a driver who couldn’t manage two trips this week and couldn’t fit all 26 boxes in her car (neither can I!)

5.15pm Unload at the distribution centre (which is on my way home, not entirely self-less!)

Home and relax; logging onto #charityhour on Twitter at 8pm to share ideas, hear new things and network with other charities.

A Day in the Life…

… Hannah, Project Manager for Norwich foodbank, Thursday 6th January 2022:

8.30am Catching up on emails and messages from the previous day, including a request for support with gas and electricity from a client via a text the previous evening, a request from another foodbank to be linked up with our warehouse manager as they have a new person starting in that role and would like to pick the brains of someone already in post and sending out a survey from a national charity to our referral agencies to get their feedback on local food /
welfare provision.

Preparation including volunteer confidentiality agreements / application forms / handbooks, local stats and most importantly (!) refreshments for a meeting tomorrow regarding opening up our 9th distribution centre which has been closed since March 2020.

Catch up in person with our warehouse manager about how things are post-Christmas and plans for the coming weeks in terms of extra shifts and catch up on the phone with our Pathfinder lead at the Trussell Trust in regards to what our priorities will be over the coming months.

(In between, answer the phone ‘how do I get a foodbank referral?’ ‘when are you next open for us to come with a donation’? ‘how do I refer my client for a foodbank parcel?’ ‘the nicest Christmas card I received this year was your charity card – do you have any more I can buy for this year?’ … and respond to emails ‘can someone come and speak at our Beavers group one Wednesday evening?’ ‘further to your funding application, the grants panel have asked these follow up questions?’ ‘how do I get a foodbank parcel?’ ‘how do I access the e-voucher system?’ ‘I’d like to volunteer, do you need me / how do I apply?’…)

12.30pm Off to one of our distribution centres with a car-boot full of food parcels, Christmas treats and toiletries as the leader is away and one other team member is off ill.

4pm Home as the centre was on the way home and I had remembered my laptop…! Catch up with a volunteer who we had hoped could use skills and knowledge from another role for us, but it’s proving a bit more complicated so we both need to work out what / where / how before moving forward. Catch up with another foodbank about this same issue as well as volunteer inductions and lots of ‘how do YOU do this’ which is always helpful! Catch up on emails and messages that have come in during the afternoon and continue to work on the latest newsletter which we want to finish and share by the end of next week and this will be one of the articles…!

In For a Penne…

The expression ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ is used to ‘express someone’s intention to see an undertaking through, however much time, effort, or money this entails’. This describes the Trussell Trust’s strategy to tackle and challenge not just hunger but poverty in the UK and is a vision we at Norwich foodbank share too.

As we enter 2022, this will be Norwich foodbank’s 12th year of operating. The years have seen many changes, developments and challenges but the core work has remained the same – ensuring local people in need receive food and support to try and ensure a repeat visit isn’t needed.

In 2010, Norwich foodbank was run entirely by volunteers out of a garage and 3 distribution centres. In 2022, the charity employs a full-time manager, 4 part-time staff (three in the office and a warehouse manager) and operate out a office, 2 warehouse units and 8 distribution centres. One thing that has remained the same is that the foodbank is heavily reliant on and thankful for almost 200 volunteers who help them distribute around 10,000 food parcels a year.

Everyone knows the the pandemic has caused so much to change – from both a personal and professional perspective – and some changes have been really positive and others have been pretty challenging.

One change Norwich foodbank has experienced is a surge in support, from existing donors who have given more and continue to do so and from new individuals, churches and businesses who we hope to encourage to continue. So to increase the footprint the charity currently has, alongside the website and social media channels, this blog will continue to be used to inform, update and encourage. Please do share and comment.

Facebook @Norwich.foodbank

Instagram @norwichfoodbank

Twitter @norwichfoodbank

Archie & Sophie Lent 2021: Day 3

The general, ever-present hunger is definitely starting to set in now. I started getting hungry for dinner at about half past 3 – normally I’d easily keep going until 6PM before I even thought about what was for tea! I’ve also been craving meat a lot – which is strange because I’ve been happily vegetarian for the last 1½ years and never before have wanted to go back. I will have to see if it persists or not but luckily the budget didn’t stretch to meat so there’s nothing to be tempted by

This week has also made me consider a lot more about waste. We’ve really made sure that we get everything out of every tin whereas normally if a few baked beans were left in the tin I’d probably give them to the dishwasher rather than scrape them out. After a busy day I was somewhat on autopilot when cooking dinner – and I started peeling our solitary potato and then put the peel into the bin… before realising that that’s a good tenth of a potato (and lots of fibre and nutrition) that we could have eaten! I was careful not to make this mistake again when preparing the rest of the meal – but I’d never usually think about eating absolutely 100% of everything I buy, even though I do try to be waste-conscious and not buy tons more than I need. 

I am also definitely discovering a few things I’d gladly have again even though I’d previously always gone for the branded versions. The cheap tin of soup we had today tasted no different to the branded version (I’m sure you can guess which…) which I normally buy. To be honest, there’s nothing this week that I would avoid eating again (although I might tweak some of the quantities up a little!)

Breakfast: Cornflakes, Sugar, Tea

Lunch: Half a tin of tomato soup, 3 small slices of toast with butter, tea and a biscuit

Afternoon snack: Half an apple and another biscuit

Dinner: Bean and tomato hotpot (recipe below) with rice. 

Ingredients:

1 tin baked beans, 1 tin chopped tomatoes, 2 small/medium carrots, 1 medium baking potato, ⅔ of an onion, Half a tsp salt, Half a tsp pepper, 1 Tsp mixed herbs, Generous tablespoon of margarine

Melt the margarine in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Chop the onion finely and fry. Whilst this is cooking, dice the potatoes and carrots so that the pieces are no bigger than a 1cm cube. Add these, season with salt, pepper and herbs and put the lid on the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, add the beans and tomatoes. Rinse each tin out with half a tin’s worth of water and add that too. Then, simmer for approx. 30 mins. Serve with rice, potatoes, pasta or bread. 

END

Archie & Sophie Lent 2021: Day 2

Last night I couldn’t sleep (despite a very filling dinner) so watched a film in bed. I was very tempted to have a snack to help me stay awake but managed to restrain myself! A lie in the next day as I had a day off made it a bit easier to get from breakfast through to lunchtime (as there was less time between them). Even this was a luxury though – I usually work 12-hour shifts and I don’t know how I’d manage to do that on £1 a day worth of food, and lots of people have other responsibilities to get up for too! 

I have found myself thinking about food a lot recently – whether that is the psychological effect of being limited in what I’m eating or a genuine desire to have a bag of crisps every five minutes I’m not sure! So far neither of us have felt desperately hungry which is a relief, although I think it’s fair to say we’ve both been a little grumpier than usual! 

We made some stuffing sandwiches for lunch (an unusual but cheap filling which we both could agree on!). I had to unexpectedly rush into work for a late shift, so I took some of the leftover sauce with rice for dinner. I left it as late as possible before I ate, because I wasn’t finishing until midnight and wanted to string it out as long as I could but I finally cracked at about half nine. It was slightly torturous when people were passing round mini eggs and ordering McDonalds but I managed to restrain myself! 

END

Norwich foodbank is heavily reliant on volunteers and during the pandemic, the charity has been delighted, humbled and at times overwhelmed with the generosity of time offered by exisiting volunteers to take on new roles or more tasks, and new people wanting to get involved because they can.

Pre-covid, the charity utilised around 200 volunteers across it’s 10 distribution centres, in the warehouse, in the office, in the transport team, at the holiday project FISH and at supermarket colelctions. Some volunteers helped weekly, others on a rota perhaps fortnightly or monthly and others on an adhoc basis.

Since March 2020, the charity has worked in quite a different way – not least with all centres closed and a 100% delivery model in palce – and currently has around 90 active volunteers involved regularly.

Archie & Sophie Lent 2021: Day 1

A bit of an early start today as I wanted to make it to Asda and back before breakfast so I could have a cuppa before I started working! Luckily they did have stock of Smart Price teabags – phew! 

Today was quite a busy day for us both – with Archie busy with uni all day and Sophie having a combination of online lectures and a Foodbank shift. We started off the day with cornflakes, sugar, some watered down milk and a cup of tea. Not the most nutritious breakfast but tricky to see how you could make it any better without spending more! It did fill us up for the morning though. Normally we’d have either cereal with fruit on it, or toast – but for the sake of variety we tried to limit our intake of bread to lunchtimes only.

I did feel a bit peckish during the morning and definitely in the late afternoon (especially as last week’s birthday cake was looking at me and calling my name!). We bought a pack of biscuits for these occasions, so luckily we had something to snack on in the morning, and (thanks to a bread miscalculation earlier today!) had an extra slice of toast in the afternoon too. Sophie thinks her foodbank shift felt much harder today than it normally does, and I have to admit I found my concentration going and even drifted off to sleep at one point when I was meant to be working despite having a good night’s sleep before! 

Menu today:

Breakfast: Cornflakes with Sugar & Milk, Tea/Water 

Lunch: Tinned Spaghetti on 2 small bits of toast, half an apple, water

Dinner: Sardiney-carrotey-tomatoey pasta (see recipe below), water, buiscones (see recipe below; it made 4 generous portions)

Ingredients: 2 x tins tomatoes, 1 x ‘value’ tin of sardines in tomato sauce, 300g bag of reduced, out of date chopped carrots, 3 stalks of thyme (from a community garden in a nearby park), ⅓ onion, 2 tsp mixed herbs, salt and pepper, small bit of margarine to fry, Strong mug of black tea

Method: Fry onion in margarine for a few minutes. Then add carrot and fry for a few more minutes. After that, add the herbs and some salt and pepper. Chop the sardines with a sharp knife, and add them along with the tomatoes and tea. 

This was really quite nice actually! The sardines and black tea (a tip from Jack Monroe) added a lot of flavour. It would have been nice with some cheese in it or on top but that was a luxury which didn’t fit into the budget. We allowed ourselves a bit of extra pasta above the recommended portion, on account of the fact we have twice as much rice as pasta to use up. We definitely needed it by 7:30! 

Biscuones (made 5):

Ingredients: 50g margarine, 50g sugar, 100g self raising flour, about 2tbsp of milk/water mix

Method: Cream margarine and sugar, add in half the flour, then the milk, then the rest of the flour. Spoon onto tray, bake at 180 for about 15 minutes (check after 10). 

These were… pretty odd but ok! The main thing we struggled with today was that we were still pretty hungry after we ate lunch, so have saved a few of these for tomorrow. The consistency is weird – crispy on the outside like a biscuit, but inside like a cross between a scone and a cake. Eggs didn’t fit into the budget, and we got self-raising flour because we thought it would be more versatile than plain flour, so this was the best we could come up with – but it contained carbs and sugar so it ticks all the boxes! 

END

Pre-covid, Norwich foodbank put together recipe kit bags of ingredents, containing all the items needed and a simple to folow recipe. Several of these were taken (with permisison) from Jack Monroe’s various cookbooks and the author donated several copies which were given out to interested clients. The recipe bags proved popular as it gave people an extra meal or treat alongside the food parcel, there was no worry about ‘I don’t have this item’ because everything was included and there was an element of choice because we had several kits available so people could have the one they fancied. The charity provided kits for corned beef hash, spaghetti bolognaise, fishcakes, soups and cakes and received positive feedback. Pancake kits were given out on Shrove Tuesday this year and the general concept will definitely be repeated!

Archie & Sophie Lent 2021: Shop

Welcome to our next ‘Live on £1’ participants:

Hi Everyone, we’re Archie and Sophie. We’ve both supported Norwich foodbank in various ways for a while, and as it’s Lent we decided to do the £1 a day food challenge. 

We’re both students at UEA (Sophie is studying Natural Science (maths, physics and biology), and Archie is studying Paramedic Science). We both ‘go’ to Kings Community Church in Norwich, and at the moment Sophie is part of the foodbank warehouse teams on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. 

We’ve decided to do the challenge for 7 days rather than 5, because surprisingly we thought that this might actually make it a bit easier – there was a little bit more wiggle room for buying extra bits like herbs, and the packet sizes worked better for 14 portions of meals than for 10! 

We chose to do our supermarket shop at Asda, firstly because it’s the supermarket we normally go to (so we know where things are!), secondly because they are fairly cheap for the basics anyway, and also because they have some cracking yellow-sticker bargains on a Sunday afternoon! We are so lucky to have the means to even get to a cheaper supermarket though – our nearest Asda is 3 and a half miles away – not fun when you’re carrying tins and on foot, and we’d have had to double our shop to make it eligible for delivery. We worked out that if we had bought our £14 worth of supplies at our local supermarket (a medium sized Co-Op) it would have been much more expensive at £28.24!.

We spent a bit of time before we went looking online and budgeting what we would eat each day so we had a rough framework for when we were in the shop. We started off by listing some basics that we definitely wanted to include – onion, garlic, herbs, sugar, milk and tea bags – those came to £3.51. Then we added breakfast – a pack of cornflakes at £0.53. Lunch, which was limited to bread, butter, lettuce and cucumber, a filling and a piece of fruit came to £5.80 leaving us £4.16 for dinner, which means 29p per portion – not easy! We settled on a bag of pasta, a bag of rice, 3 tins of tomatoes, a few tins of beans and a bag of carrots, which left us with £1 spare to spend on anything we saw that was on offer. 

When we actually got to the shop we were surprised to find many cheaper options than what they advertise online. Nearly all the smart-price range seems to be absent from the Asda app / website – which is awful at the moment when people for all sorts of reasons may not want to / be able to get to a physical shop and so would have to spend more. Luckily for us this did us a few favours – we ended up £1.43 under budget, leaving us room for a few extras. We decided to go shopping about an hour before closing time, thinking that we would get better deals – which we did, but unfortunately that meant the stocks of the things we actually needed were quite low! We couldn’t get any teabags (no 40 packs in stock, and 80 packs were far too pricey to fit in), and no semi-skimmed or skimmed milk (we had to opt for less whole milk and watering it down). 

We called in at Aldi, a Co-Op and a Tesco Express on the way home but none of them had any cheap teabags (although we did spend some of the remaining money on cheese sauce, biscuits and another loaf of bread)- so an early start is in order tomorrow! I don’t drink tons of tea, but I know that when I don’t have any for a few days I get really awful headaches so we decided it was worth trying to find some because (theoretically at least), teabags are cheaper than paracetamol! 

We made a big effort to try and include enough fruit and veg to get 5-a-day but we found it really almost impossible on such a budget. I think we’ll just about manage 3-a-day if we try! We also took into account 20p for salt and pepper. We weighed this out from the salt and pepper we already have (from Asda, using their prices = 3p for 75g salt and 28p for 10g pepper) – mainly because we didn’t want to end up with another half-used pot of each – but even this is a luxury many don’t have. 

END

Norwich foodbank has collection points in most major supermarkets acorss the city – Asda, Co-op, Lidl in Sprowston, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tesco, Waitrose – all of which, thanks to generous donors, are empited and collected at least once a week by volunteer drivers. The charity’s website http://www.norwichfoodbank.co.uk is kept up to date with what it’s needs are (currently fruit juice, tinned fruit, toilet roll and 40s / 80s teabags!) and it is incredible to see these items come in, without fail, after the website or social media has been udpated with these items. Project Manager Hannah says, ‘We are constantly humbled and delighted at the support we receive – from donations direct to us or via collection points, volunteers supporting us all day every day, financial gifts coming in by cheque or BACS and we know prayer and advocacy is being done all the time too. For ALL this, we thank you.’

Dawn Lent 2021 – Day 5

I thought today, as I ate my 5th portion of rice and dahl for lunch (filling but getting very boring) how much I like cooking for other people. Pre-lockdown, we often have friends over for dinner at the weekend and I love this. How would I do this on this budget? I couldn’t, no matter how many “cook dinner for a fiver!” articles I read. Cooking for others would be out and how could I go to other peoples for dinner with no gift? (wine is obviously out – “make something” said a friend – with what?? How could I afford to make a cake or biscuits on this budget?). This is really really horrible. I am not hungry but my diet this week has been very limited and there has been none of the usual pleasure in cooking – imagine if this was forever rather than just a week?

I think I thought I was aware, but I realise how many aspects of food poverty I had not understood. The anxiety that would go with an empty cupboard, the endless worry about children eating enough (and the guilt), the distress at not being able to reciprocate with friends and the shame this causes. I start to see the connection between poverty and mental health – the distress that hunger and anxiety about food can cause, the relentless, grinding misery of it all. How can we allow this to happen?

END

Dawn Lent 2021 – Day 4

I made pancakes for breakfast with flour, oil and water, as we are running low on milk (oat and soya) I used up all the mixture cooking them for my daughter, so I don’t have breakfast. I am well enough (and chubby enough!) to miss the odd meal, unlike so many of the people who use the Foodbank, who often look unwell and malnourished.

I eat plain rice for lunch. I feel tired and hungry. Food is no longer something to look forward to but has just become functional. And boring. I spend a lot of my life thinking about food – it’s one of my greatest pleasures, especially cooking for others (not so possible in lockdown) but now it just feels bleak. I am already longing for the end of the week and the prospect of homemade pizza, roast veggie Sunday lunch… and I have heartburn (probably because of what I’m eating), so I’m feeling miserable. I have also put on 3lb, which is probably because my diet this week has been loads of carbs (white rice, flour, sugar, cheap biscuits – which were really horrible, but I ate them anyway). I wont even comment on my digestive system… Vegan diets are not necessarily healthy, especially if they have very little fruit or vegetables. How must it feel to have to live like this for more than a few days? Or to always have the worry that it might be like this again?

END

Norwich foodank can cater for all sorts of dietary needs and often those served with specific requirements are the most grateful because these foods can be more expensive or harder to source (i.e. not available at a corner shop). So far in February, the foodbank hadeliver 352 food parcels and of these, 74 have been ‘specially’ made due to cooking facilities or dietary needs. Boxes of food that delivered usually need cooking with a hob and sometimes an oven (for example a Fray Bentos pie), but some people only have a microwave or kettle – especially those in temporary accomodation – and some have nothing at all (not necesarily homeless but quite often the case) so the charity ensures that not only the recipient receives a ‘full’ parcel, but that it is all appropriate for their circumstances.

With regards to dietary requirements, requests are made for vegetarian, Halal, diabetic, food allergy such as nuts and lactose and all are made to the best of the volunteer’s ability. This message was received from someone the foodbank delivered too:

‘I have a milk allergy and we are both vegan for compassionate as well as health reasons, and could not believe how thoughtfully the boxes had been packed. We want to extend out profound gratitude for what you have done for us and to let you know that your efforts have made our lives a tiny bit less awful.’

Dawn Lent 2021 – Day 3

Breakfast was oat pancakes with (the very precious) banana – not entirely successful but we ate them anyway as we are both really hungry. I cracked and made coffee – worryingly, my headache stopped. Coffee was not in my weekly budget, so I have cheated (again). Lunch was very boring. My daughter went to Coop with our remaining 34p to see if she could find anything in the bargain section (preferably a vegetable of some sort) but there was nothing – even an apple cost 40p. There were no loose potatoes and a bag cost 90p. So – rice and lentils for tea again.

I met a friend for a walk after work and we usually have a coffee (from the mobile café in an old horsebox). I have to ask him if him will pay, which is embarrassing. He is fine about it but I wonder how this would feel long term? (He also bought me a flapjack which was marvelous!) I haven’t included coffee in my weekly budget so I can’t even bring a flask of coffee (assuming I have one). I suspect I would feel really ashamed and wonder if I would start to avoid meeting up? Would I start to lose my friendships? This is something that had NEVER occurred to me before… that poverty can cause even greater isolation, at a time when people need each other most. So far, this is the worst thing that I have realised all week, and the one that makes me feel most saddened.

END

Pre-covid, Norwich foodbank operated from ‘distribution centres’ where people who have been referred would collect their food parcel and any extras (toiletries, pet food, occasionally fresh items such as end of the day produce from supermarekts). All 10 Norwich foodbank centres (covering Wroxham, Wymondham, Loddon and all areas in between) had free tea, coffee / cold drinks and biscuits and 3 centres also offered a free hot meal, thanks to the church and volunteers for this provision. With specific regards to the meal-sites, lots of people would come for the food parcel at the start of the session and stay til the end – it was somewhere safe and warm and welcoming and, if appropriate and ‘wanted’, plenty of volunteers were around to chat and help and support.

This is something that is missing from the current ‘covid-secure’ delivery model – a phone call referral, a reasonably quick doorstep delivery and that’s it. Not much interaction and little ‘contact’ and we know in this current climate, lonliness at worst can be a killer and at the very least has a big impact on mental health.

Dawn’s comments about meeting up with a friend does remind us once again that for some in our community, they are very isolated and a foodbank delivery might be the only contact they have.