Hannah Lent 2021 – Day 5

I felt more than a little relief this morning that today was the last day of this ‘challenge’ for me, that tomorrow I could eat what I wanted and that I had more bread that I expected left, plus a double portion of pasta as I wouldn’t need it for lunch so could have a bigger tea. I know I didn’t have to use it all up, but it’s a little about food waste as well as budgeting so I was pleased to not have much left, especially compared to 2019, but I know that was only a small part. At the end of the 5 days, I had a few fruit teabags left.

Eggy bread, fruit tea and lemonade followed by quite a lot of cleaning up from yesterday and a trip out – to Homebase – and another fruit tea and lemonade preceded a lunch of baked beans and hotdogs on toast. Very nice and quite ‘normal’ for me which was even nicer.

A fairly relaxed afternoon, but I have to admit to already planning my lunches and a couple of dinners for the coming week. As I mentioned in the 2019 blog, I am very big on meal planning both for structure and being organised in this aspect of life at least, but also this helps with budgeting and a really meaningful shopping list so I did spend a bit of time going through the cupboards and freezer, working out what I had, what I would be cooking / eating and therefore what I needed to buy.

I prepared my lunches for Monday and Tuesday and, as usual, flung a few handfuls of pasta into the saucepan but weighed it out of interest after I had put in what I considered ‘enough’. It was almost 300g and this was to do 2-3 lunches. Again I questioned am I overeating or was the 85g portions of the past week significantly less than a ‘standard’ portion? I must google that… I did, 180g is considered a ‘standard portion’ so I wasn’t far off with my lunch weight (I consider a lunch to be a smaller portion than a dinner) and my dinners this week have been just under half the standard, hence my now justified evening hunger pangs.

For the past few months at least, I have favoured a Jack Monroe Veganish recipe (which I make un-vegan!) of caesar dressing and I find it absolutely delicious with cold pasta, veg and ham but I haven’t considered how much this is per portion. I still haven’t done the maths but my lunches had a few slices of wafer thin ham, garden peppers, celery, chick peas (no I haven’t had enough, I love them) and the ceasar dip is made with fat free greek yoghurt, olive oil, yeast flakes, mustard, lemon juice and pepper. If I bought all these things outright, some of the items would only last the week (the veg, ham and yoghurt), the other bits would do a few weeks at least, but the outlay at the beginning would be significant. I love this lunch and have missed it and am looking forward to it even more now having taken all this into account.

Dinner at 6.30pm ish was a double portion of pasta, and the rest of everything else – chick peas, baked beans and sardines, with carrots. I was looking forward to a ‘proper’ plateful (I have been told that our dinnerplates are especially large (!) but this week I have been eating out of a bowl to make it look ‘full’) but I’m a little ashamed to say – but being honest – I didn’t eat much more than half. I think part of it was sheer boredom of the same old flavours or lack of flavour 5 days in a row, part of it was I didn’t care if I was hungry later as I would ‘OK’ tomorrow and part of it was I knew I still have toast and a boiled egg if I really wanted it. Of course I did, so about 8.30pm I had that and really enjoyed it. Eggs are a definite keep if I do this again, as is bread – for me at least.

I’ve been mulling over my conversation with Diane about ‘lasting change’ and my church group are starting a 24/7 Lent course on Prayer this coming week. One of the strands is about fasting and so I read about this particular element when I went to bed, thinking if this is something I could do more often and how it might work. I immediately started thinking ‘it could help me lose / maintain weight’ and then almost as quickly thought ‘but that’s not the point!’ The piece I read said it didn’t have to be about food but could be a fast from talking, social media, screens in general or look at the ‘Daniel Diet’ and only eat vegetables, cutting out rich or ‘fancy’ foods (I’m paraphrasing).

The thing that’s struck me the most about this time is my attitude. I weigh myself each Sunday morning and this Sunday I was 4lb lighter than last week. Not a huge surprise as I’ve eaten relatively little in 5 days so it may well all go back on by next Sunday, but part of me did think on Wednesday when I started, this may help kickstart me into eating less and therefore help with weight control. I don’t think I have a problem with weight, but there it was at the start and end of this period so maybe I need to consider this a bit more.

The point of fasting in a Christian / religious sense, as I understand it, is to focus more on God and the time spent on doing the thing you’ve stopped, you should be spending with God in prayer or study or meditation. I have definitely felt more empathy with those we serve this week, knowing I will ‘go back’ to how I can and do live and eat but for so many what they face today if what they will face tomorrow and the day after and the day after… but I haven’t prayer any more than I usually do and I had thought I would or at least try to.

This will be my takeaway from this experience – not only the gratitude for what I have, but that I will do some form of ‘fasting’ more regularly and use the time I gain more wisely and purposefully.

END

Stay tuned as we have a mother and daughter doing this Lent idea this coming week, following a vegan diet…

Hannah Lent 2021 – Day 4

I’m sticking with eggy bread, fruit tea and lemonade for breakfast and have counted the slices of bread I have left – enough for 3 more slices today if I need them, plus the same (4 slices altogether) tomorrow if needed.

We’re in the middle of redecorating our bedroom and today’s task was continuing to strip the old wallpaper and fill the holes on the walls we’d already done. We started this about 9.30am and I had a fruit tea and lemonade about 11.30am. Starting to feel a little hungry but this took the edge off and didn’t stop for lunch til just after 1pm. Soup, toast and a boiled egg didn’t fill the hole entirely but there was plenty more to do during the afternoon so it would be good to be busy.

We stopped around 5pm and I decided it was too early to be cooking tea so had another fruit tea and watched a bit of TV til 6pm ish then had a bigger dinner than I’ve had all week, knowing what I had left only needed to last one more day: pasta, hotdogs, baked beans, carrots and chick peas.

I thought about parents and families who’s children would be eating ‘early’ and so they might be cooking and eating at 5pm and then easily would be hungry again later in the evening and there wouldn’t necessarily be any more food to share or spare. I have a friend with 4 children and when I go round for dinner (pre-covid of course), they would be pestering mum for a snack while dinner was cooking, pudding or something to eat after – and we always ate ‘well’ in terms of a balanced plate and plenty of it – and all of them would want something during the evening. Often they would have crisps or fruit or a biscuit and while none of these alone are necessarily ‘expensive’, they all add up and the cost could easily provide another meal and that is a choice so many families across the UK have to make – a snack now or a meal tomorrow.

If you read Emma’s story from 2019, you’ll see this kind of situation reflected. She took her toddler on the shop and he grabbed a treat near the till and the cashier put it through without asking Emma. She requested it be put back as it wasn’t affordable in the budget but how many of us grab a last minute treat for ourselves or our loved ones without needing to do the maths of whether or not we have enough money?

END

Norwich foodbank has run a project called FISH – ‘Food (and Fun) In School Holidays’ – since 2014. Local clubs were set up all over the foodbank’s geographical patch – coving Wymondham, Wroxham, Loddon and in between – and schools were asked to invite and register families who may struggle during the holidays when free school meals weren’t available.

In the summer of 2014, around 300 children attended at least 1 session and had a free hot meal, pudding and took part in free fun activities provided either by the volunteers from local churches and the community who helped to staff the club, or bought in with funding including Banham Zoo, Norwich Puppet Theatre and The Garage who provide music and dancing workshops.

Many clubs also ran sessions in the October half term, a Christmas dinner hamper in the Christmas holidays, February half term, Easter and May half term, with a few running in the long school summer holidays only.

During the pandemic, while vouchers for families were made available, thanks in part to the Marcus Rashford campaign, we heard of several schools and families where this wasn’t administered quickly or ‘well’ and so many were still struggling financially when schools remained closed. Several FISH clubs adapted quickly, as so many charities and other groups had to, and provided either takeaway meals for families to collect, or recipe kits including all the ingredients needed for a family meal. They also provided activity packs, some from their own resources and also given to the foodbank from Norfolk County Council and Norfolk and Norwich Festival Bridge.

Hannah Lent 2021 – Day 3

Following on from thoughts about a long day, I soft boiled (I hope!) two eggs for a snack and had tinned tomatoes on toast for breakfast. Not as filling, but I have a meeting right before the deliveries so I’m hoping that will not only provide me with a cup of coffee (I’m not missing the caffeine as I usually drink decaf everything but I am missing the flavour and variety of drinks) and also a welcome distraction from hunger.

I’m on my own in the office on a Friday so had a couple of cups of fruit tea and a boiled egg about 11am (soft, hooray!) and that was both delicious and hit the spot. My meeting and preparing for the deliveries took me through to 2.30pm and I had my cuppa soup, toast and carrot sticks for lunch. There were a few back and forth trips to the warehouse to check on tasks and new shifts and then I was in the warehouse to prepare for Saturday deliveries at about 4.45pm. I had a piece of bread with the other soft boiled egg and this again was tasty and filled the hole in between now and dinner.

The route planning was a bit a more complicated than usual and we had 33 deliveries to get ready so I wasn’t home til 7.30pm. I was pleased that my pasta etc wouldn’t take long to cook and also that the evening was already well underway, and didn’t feel any more tired than I do normally at the end of a week.

Pasta, hotdogs, tomatoes and chickpeas were my dinner – I didn’t think I needed something as filling as the sardines or baked beans tonight but I did feel hungry again only an hour later.

It feels good to be just over halfway through the 5 days, and I have a reasonably busy weekend ahead, and so I’m feeling positive. But I know for the 33 households we are serving tomorrow and the 22 we delivered yesterday (some individuals, some couples and some families; some in their own property, some in temporary accommodation) may not have any hope for a better week ahead and may have been living with financial and other burdens for a long time already. I’m grateful that I haven’t been in that position and I’m not now and for the many, many choices and decisions I can make every single day.

END

Norwich foodbank accepts referrals from agencies, but in the past 6 months, were successful for a grant bid to employ a dedicated Citizen’s Advice worker who would work exclusively with those in need of and / or using the foodbank. In January 2021 alone, 45 referrals were made to Stuart our CA worker – that’s 45 households who accepted further help with their circumstances. We don’t yet have details of ‘outcomes’ but are looking forward to knowing how many of these have been able to sort out long or short term issues and therefore wont’ need to us again. That’s our vision – an end to the need of foodbanks.

Hannah Lent 2021 – Day 2

After my sort of burnt egg on toast yesterday, I decided to go another way for breakfast and do eggy bread. This worked much better, although interestingly (if you think so!), wasn’t as filling. Maybe I ate it quicker. I still had a headache when I got up so had a glass of lemonade and a mug of fruit tea with breakfast, plus paracetamol. I wouldn’t have been able to afford these on my budget and although of course not technically food / drink, something I always have in the drawer for which I am grateful not to have to specifically budget for. I also have plenty of toilet roll, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, shower gel… Again, I keep stocked up on these essentials and we do give them out with foodbank parcels when requested. We had a referral for a man today who was using newspaper as he had run out of loo roll. I am grateful for my stash of toiletries today.

I got to work and am with Diane today, so got a cup of tea AND a coffee later in the morning. Hooray! With so many in our office building working from home or at least not in the office every day, the communal fridge is pretty empty, so since the first lockdown I’ve rather commandeered the top shelf as ‘ours’ and as the others in the office aren’t in all day, it’s sort of ‘mine’ 🙂 Diane commented that the shelf didn’t have my usual pots of pasta and what would I have lunch today. I told her and we chatted a little about what I was doing and why. We agreed it was important that doing anything like this – including fasting or a bible study or anything we talk about / learn about in a church context (one of my reasons for this is due to wanting to do some kind of Lent reflection), it needed to have lasting change. Like giving up chocolate for Lent just makes you wish Easter Sunday would come quickly or a new year’s resolution is often broken before the end of January! I wrote in my first piece that I wanted to feel more empathy with those we serve and that is totally true, but I also wanted to remember to pray when I felt hungry or frustrated or anything like that and yesterday, I didn’t. I just felt these things. but today I did on a few occasions pray for those we would be serving today, especially when my stomach was making a lot of noise.

We had a referral for a man who was staying in a hotel due to being homeless, but wasn’t allowed ‘back’ (we don’t know what time he left, but presume in the morning) until 7pm, so with our deliveries taking place between 2pm – 5pm, we would need to arrange to meet him somewhere to give him the food parcel. We were really surprised, with the current lockdown / restrictions that this was ‘OK’ and also thought ‘what on earth is he supposed to do?!’ If he’s technically homeless and needing us, he hasn’t got spare money to get on a bus to get warm or go somewhere and even if he did, there’s nowhere to go anyway. And yet when our driver met him and gave the food parcel, he was still able to be grateful.

Today there were 19 households to deliver to and so Keith, Diane and I prepared these for the drivers – getting the boxes out, toiletries picked and packed and loaves from Bread Source (that we receive 3 times a week) bagged up with the day’s EDP (delivered daily, courtesy of Aviva). The drivers came, loaded and went and the 2pm warehouse shift arrived.

At 2.30pm I had my cuppa soup and toast and considered ‘cheating’ with a coffee mid-afternoon but decided against it… Confession is good for the soul…?

I got home at about 5.30pm but decided it was too early to start tea as it wouldn’t take long to cook and I would be hungry later so I did a bit more work and watched TV and ate at about 6.30pm. Tonight’s delight was pasta (of course), some tinned tomatoes, chick peas and 2 tinned hotdogs. This was nowhere near as filling as last night’s tea – maybe the fish gives a little more ‘something’ and the baked beans clearly had more to fill me up than the tomatoes. Another lesson for the coming days and another year.

A glass of lemonade, a fruit tea and carrot sticks made my evening snacks and washing up and family zoom helped to pass the time! I thought about tomorrow – on Fridays I work late and this can mean I’m not home til 7.30pm some weeks. We deliver on Saturday mornings so Keith and I have agreed that he’ll meet the drivers on a Saturday morning, and I’ll get the boxes and toiletries ready the evening before. Referrals come in til 5pm, so we (one of the afternoon volunteers Trevor kindly stays to help) then need to get them all entered and routed before we can get the boxes and extras ready. Anyway, that made me think I’ll need a little more food to take to work and so I’ll take a boiled egg and another piece of bread (still leaves me a slice ‘spare’ for both Saturday and Sunday), plus some tinned tomatoes. I had thought of beans, but after tonight’s dinner, I need these for my evening meal.

END

Norwich foodbank provides a 3-day foodbank parcel, and also essential toiletries subject to supply, which is healthy thanks to the generous community of supportive donors. Some people request general toiletries, others will ask for specific things and during the first lockdown in 2020, we were pleased to have a healthy stock of toilet rolls before the panic buying set in and shelves were emptied.

The charity also provides nappies and baby food for those who need it and pet food (mainly dog and cat but occasionally hamster and other pet food is donated / requested). Alongside the food parcels, there is often ‘surplus’ food – either short dated items, fresh items (such as bread mentioned above) including eggs and fruit and veg from donors and FareShare which helps the ambient food given stretch that bit further and provides some treats too when we have sweets and crisps to include.

Thank you to all our donors for giving so faithfully and generously.

Hannah Lent 2021 – Day 1

I thought a non-stick pan would be OK without any oil or other lubrication to fry my breakfast egg. I was wrong. My breakfast of egg on toast was pretty similar to my ‘normal’ breakfast, apart from the egg being in lots of bits and no butter or marmite underneat…! I had a mug of fruit tea with it and felt that would set me up OK for the morning at least. Again, I was wrong.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are slightly busier for me than other days as the warehouse manager is off and so I am more involved in the shift changes and deliveries. Whilst this is helpful to break up the day, this particular Wednesday I was very hungry by 12pm and thought my cuppa soup won’t take me through the whole afternoon so I had a mug of fruit tea and a couple of carrot sticks. I used the same ‘rules’ as I did in 2019 – if someone offers me a hot drink at work I’ll accept, but I won’t make one otherwise as not everyone has this option during the day. Luckily, Lesley had a cuppa mid-morning so I had one too!

After the deliveries were done and the afternoon shift was started, I had my cuppa soup and a piece of toast at about 2.15pm. It was much more filling than just the soup alone as I had in 2019, but I could have had 2-3 pieces of toast easily. I have counted the number of slices in the loaf – it’s a small one as this was 40p and the larger one, although more bread was 49p which I couldn’t afford (economies of scale) – but I only have 2-3 slices spare after breakfast and lunch each day and I think I’ll need one on Friday when I work late and at least one over the weekend which I remember being tough last time.

I felt really tired all afternoon and just didn’t fancy any more fruit tea, but had quite a headache all evening – most days I’d have 2-3 redbush teas, 3-4 coffees and then something cold at home like fruit juice or sqaush, or both. I think the headache was dehydration so I must take more notice of this over the next few days especially.

Tea was pasta with 2 spoonsfuls each of chick peas and baked beans, plus half a tin of sardines. I ate very slowly as it was only 6.15pm and I was sure I would feel hungry later on. I enjoyed it, but could have eaten double quantities. I weighed the pasta out so I knew I’d have enough for 6 meals (5 dinners and 1 lunch) and it was less than I would normally do – am I usually overeating or is this portion an actual small one….? Don’t know.

I had a glass of lemonade during the evening as something ‘sweet’ which helped and went to bed earlier than normal as I was tired, headachey and missing my usual cup of the and evening snack of an apple and cheese or chocolate or both…

I thought of all the people who have much more physical jobs than I do and how they would cope of such a small amount of calories and of all the parents who would ensure their children eat first and have what left, but still have to run around after them and care for them AND themselves.

We had a referral today for a mum of 3 teenagers, who often doesn’t eat in order that they have enough so we gave them extra food today to hopefully ensure mum would get her ‘share’ as well.

END

Norwich foodbank helps people who are referred to them for support. This includes people who are receiving benefits, and those who are in work – part of full time. We have seen a rise in the number of people who are working but have been furloughed and therefore the household income is vastly reduced, yet the bills are still the same and even more in most cases, with kids at home needing more food, heating and electric for devices and school work.

During the winter (November to March), we have a restrcited pot of funding to help with gas / electric bills alongside a food parcel. This is done by referral, in a similar way to the foodbank voucher so we know help and support are being made available too, and since November we have issued more than 90 households with a voucher of £28 for a single adult or adult couple and £49 for a household with one or more children.We are grateful to funds and donors who have given us the resources to do this scheme for the 4th year and we know those who receive this support are grateful too, as this text from a client received this week says: ‘Thankyou so much you guys are angels thankyou’ and another, ‘Just wanted to say thank you for your help. I’ve not been in this situation before were I can’t put a wash on or have hot water. You truly are lifesavers. Thank you so much.’

Live on £1 a day 2021, Hannah’s shop

In 2019, Hannah (Project Manager for Norwich foodbank) and a few volunteers and supporters took up the idea of living on £1 a day for 5 days (in terms of food and drink) and wrote about their experiences. You can read their stories here: https://norwichfoodbank.blog/

2020 was a strange and challenging year for so many reasons and, rightly or wrongly, campaigns such as these weren’t run in quite the same way. But in 2021, routines have changed but are a little more ‘settled’ and Hannah and others have taken this idea up again to build a greater understanding and empathy with and for the individuals and families the foodbank serves every day, to highlight the difficulties tight budgets pose and, for some, as a personal Lent reflection at this important time for Christians all over the world.

Here are Hannah’s thoughts and comments on starting this 5 day period in 2021:

‘I had a read back through mine and other’s writings from 2019 as I wanted to remind myself why I was doing it, how I felt and if there was anything I could learn and do ‘better’ or differently this time. £5 does not give much leeway so, looking at my proposed shopping list and the items I bought in 2019, there were going to be only a couple of differences. In 2019, I bought a big bag of porridge oats and a bottle of squash totalling £1.74. I had a lot of both left over and while that is fine if living on this budget for a longer period of time – I would have technically more to spend the following week – it did feel like a ‘waste’ and I wondered at the time, could I have spent more wisely?

I am a creature of habit and I have toast with butter and marmite (huge fan) and a glass of fruit juice for breakfast every day. At the weekend I might add an egg or two, but this sets me up for the day and I enjoy it. Reading back on my previous breakfasts, the porridge really did fill me up, but I just didn’t want that this time and DID want toast so bread was firmly on my list. I decided eggs would be a good source of protein and although expensive (compared to other items), worth it. I toyed with the idea of having peanut butter, but decided on eggs as I could buy 10 and have one as snack if needed, whereas a spoonful of peanut butter didn’t feel like it would cut it! Time will tell… I decided to stick with cuppa soup for lunch and a loaf of bread meant I could have a slice at lunch too which would be more than I had previously, then a bag of pasta which would need do all 5 dinners with a combination of my 2019 additions of chick peas, baked beans, tinned tomatoes, fresh carrots and tinned sardines, but with an added tin of hotdogs for ‘variety’. I had added in a bottle of Aldi cola at 39p and fruit tea bags (couln’t afford my go-to rooibos and these were the cheapest hot drink I might enjoy – I don’t like green or peppermint tea), but switched to a bottle of lemonade as this was 29p and the cola put me over budget. I enjoy something sweet now and then and thought a fizzy, sweet drink would do the trick and was much cheaper than a carton of fruit juice or bottle of squash. Although thinking now, a bottle of squash would be only just more than the fruit tea and lemonade and could have done hot AND cold drinks…

I spent £4.98 and then had a panic when I got home as there was only 4 cuppa soups in the box and I thought there were 5 – I hadn’t checked to be fair. I looked back on the 2019 list thinking about shrinkflation (!) and saw there were only 4 then too, so the pasta stretched to 5 dinners and 1 lunch. I clearly have a very bad memory.

My shop is inadvertently dairy free, but as with last time, I’m thinking how much more difficult it would be for someone who has a gluten intolerance – the bread and pasta alone would have been half the budget I expect and not available every week at Aldi where I did my shop (there are often ‘specialbuys’ available, but these aren’t guranteed to be at every shop or that they meet the ‘right’ dietary needs).

I shopped on Shrove Tuesday, ready to start on Ash Wednesday and, while cooking pancakes AFTER dinner (a luxury for so many to have a pudding), I received a text from a client I had spoken to earlier in the day about sorting an ‘Energy Bank’ voucher to help with gas and electric. I hadn’t said when I’d do it, but the text asked if it would be today (it was 7pm) as she’d just gone into her emergency credit and was worried. I immediately sorted it out (we buy online voucher codes that are then presented at a PayPoint or Post Office machine for pre-payment meters) and thought about how grateful I am for hot water, gas and electric for cooking and heating and how I’ve never had to worry if there’d be enough for the day / the meal / the shower and how so many worry EVERY day. My £5 obviously isn’t going to cover the cost of cooking and I hadn’t really thought about this, but again this reminds me to be thankful.

END

Norwich foodbank is part of the Trussell Trust UK-wide network, providing emergency food parcels for people referred to us by agencies or professionals who can help, advise and support the individual or family with underlying issues. The charity work with over 300 such ‘referral agencies’ including Citizen’s Advice, Shelter, Leeway, councils and Age UK.

Since the start of the pandemic, all 10 distribution centres closed and the foodbank moved to a 100% delivery model, taking referrals by phone and email and delivering direct to people’s houses on weekday afernoons and Saturday mornings. Lots of volunteers had to stop due to sheilding and ill health, lots of new people came forward to help out and, in February 2021, Norwich foodbank was approved as a frontline agency and around 80 actively involved, client-facing volunteers were able to get their first vaccination against Covid-19.

During the course of 2020, almost 15,000 food parcels were delivered – a 22% increase on 2019.

If you would like more information on the work of the foodbank, have a look at their wesite http://www.norwichfoodbank.co.uk or followon social media – Facebook = Norwich foodbank UK, Twitter and Instagram = @norwichfodobank

A day in the life…

Today is Monday 27th January 2020. This year is Norwich foodbank’s 10th anniversary and during 2019, I was thinking of how we mark – but not celebrate – this fact. We have helped, fed and supported a lot of people, with an incredible amount of support ourselves, but it’s difficult to think we’re doing ‘well’ when what we want is to close due to lack of need.

One of the ways to mark this anniversary is by sharing an insight into the inner workings of the charity, it’s staff and volunteers (and maybe those we serve too) and so here goes; today is my day as Project Manager:

I was in the office early, catching up on emails and writing a rough agenda for the meeting I had called for 10am, to discuss Christmas 2020 plans…! Early to think about Christmas? Maybe, but good to chat, reflect and think while it’s still relatively fresh in our minds. I met with a few other charities who, like us, provide an extra or different service at Christmas to their clients and local community with food, a meal and / or gifts. As with so many things, we all agreed that communication is key and to know what each other is planning, who they are helping and how and would then give a clearer picture of how we each fit into that puzzle.

I then popped over to the warehouse, early for my next appointment, but I wanted to chat with a few of the volunteers there about our upcoming (July) Bishop’s Garden event and the help they have kindly offered – on top of what they do for the charity already. We have some incredible and generous people making the charity able to do so much and I hope I never forget to appreciate that, as some charities and groups really struggle.

After catching up, I saw an email from an agency ordering a lactose and gluten free parcel for a client of theirs, so set about making it. Thanks to donations and warehouse organisation of keeping dietary items separate, this was a relatively straightforward task and we know this person will receive a suitable 3-day parcel to meet their needs. Just as I was failing to get all the items into the box, a potential new volunteer arrived with their support worker. English is not their first language, and, combined with learning difficulties, there will be roles within the charity this particular volunteer won’t be able to cope with. But we try our best to place everyone who applies within their availability, capability and our needs. After a chat, we agreed on a role they would like to try and we planned a date for a trial session.

Next on the day’s agenda was a trip into the city centre, to the Forum, where an art exhibition in our name was up. Charlotte, a 3rd year Norwich University of the Arts student, had been visiting and chatting with me for a few months with this being the goal – displaying her photographs of our work in a public exhibition to raise awareness, as well as publicly celebrating our volunteers and the work we do. The exhibition opened last night and is on til the end of the week and while we were chatting about the setup and our favourite photos, a number of people walked past and looked, but a few stopped to read the facts and stats and have a closer look. Part of the visit was also to meet with Georgina from That’s TV East for an interview to be shown early evening tonight. Both of us were interviewed and it was on to the next things!

Off to Smithfield Foods to collect some donations of food, toiletries and cash that had been given in recent weeks. We have been supported by this company for a few years through staff volunteering, donations and fundraising within their office and it was nice to see Karen, my contact, albeit briefly!

Last on today’s list was a meeting at Carrow Road – the home of Norwich City Football Club. We have a collection at a home match in March and I was meeting with the club and Canaries Trust to chat through the details and to review the collection that took place last year. It was a very positive, informative and helpful meeting with lots of affirmative answers (and a to-do list of course).

Tomorrow has only one thing in the diary – a distribution centre team meal to which I have been invited which is flattering and will be a great opportunity to see the whole team; the weekly session is run by just a couple of people so some team members will have never met.

The rest of this week is much calmer than today – meetings with new and existing volunteers about ideas and current / future roles, visiting a possible site for a social supermarket (we are not leading on this, but interested in the concept) and continuing to host a Duke of Edinburgh student as she volunteers with us as part of her bronze award.

With all this busyness, there’s still phone-calls, emails, general admin and maybe, just maybe, ticking off some of this week’s to-do list…

Live on £1 a Day: Emma Day 5

Breakfast – Weetabix with water. It’s pretty grim but here’s no milk and I didn’t have time to go to the shops yesterday. I feel terrible about not having time to do a top up shop, but I just couldn’t fit it in between work and picking up the kids. Being on a budget makes being organised about food that much more important, and I’m feeling the strain. I top the kids up with extra milk (not in budget), and I’m not working today so I can go to the shop. I’m feeling optimistic knowing that this is the last day of the Lent appeal.

I eat the last two remaining biscuits mid morning and then go to the shop. We need milk, bread and fruit and there is £1.17 left in the budget. I don’t have enough money for all of these, so I spend ages trying to decide whether milk is more important for the kids, or fruit. I don’t know if there’s a right answer, but I decide to prioritise milk (for the kids) and bread (for lunch).
In the shop my 3 year old is hungry, and tries to convince me to buy him treats. I would normally just buy him whatever he wanted without too much thought, as I can’t bear the thought of him being hungry. When we get to the checkout he has picked up a treat, and he passes it to the cashier to scan. She does so without asking me if that’s ok, so I have to ask to put it back, and the cashier looks surprised and then embarrassed.

It’s nice to have some fresh bread and we both enjoy lunch. Its not enough for my 3 year old and he also wolfs down a yogurt, banana and a bag of hula hoops – none of which are in budget.

It’s a long afternoon with no snacks. I don’t have the energy to play and run around after my son that I usually would, maybe its because its Friday afternoon after a long week, or perhaps because we’ve been living on empty carbs all day.

Dinner is chicken fillets, sauce made with carrots and tinned tomatoes, and spaghetti with frozen veg. I am so sick of spaghetti but the food tastes good, and its’s a hit with the kids. I would rather give them fresh meat but I know they are guaranteed to eat this frozen breaded stuff, and its cheaper. My husband would normally eat at least twice as much food as he has for dinner this evening, and its hard to watch the kids finish their meal and ask for more while we are still hungry. Knowing that this is our last meal of the lent appeal lifts our spirits.

I’m relieved I won’t have to choose between feeding myself or feeding my kids tomorrow, or worry about whether they are getting enough nutrition. The kids have cereal and milk for supper, and we go to bed counting our blessings, looking forward to a good breakfast tomorrow.

END

Live on £1 a Day: Emma Day 4

It’s day 4 and I frankly can’t wait for this to be over.

I’m hungry and tired. We have run out of fruit and milk, and today will see the last of the bread. I look forward to finishing off the eggs for breakfast, and kids enjoy boiled eggs too so it’s win-win. I put spread on my toast without even thinking about it – although it’s not in budget. These apparently small things make such a difference – things I usually take for granted.

I am so grateful that we have tea bags in our shop this week. The tea and occasional biscuit (although today will finish them off) are keeping me going, and again I am so grateful to not have to worry about what the kids are eating during the day. There’d be nowhere near enough food if they weren’t eating at school.

Sandwiches (again) for lunch. I’m getting fed up of having the same thing over and over, and I think I can’t face it, but in actual fact I’m starving and eat it really quickly.

The afternoon goes quickly because I am busy with work, but everything does seem a bit harder / and I’m a bit more tired than usual.

I’m really looking forward to roasted chicken thighs for dinner. Protein and fat is just what I have been craving; the portions just aren’t big enough. The kids grumble but eat it anyway. Dividing up the food between 4 of us and deciding who gets bigger / smaller portions is by far the biggest challenge this week.

Thank goodness this will be over soon.

END

All our bloggers have got to a point within their 5 day period of living on £1 where they’re looking forward to day 6. But for many people, this is daily life with no end in sight. One issue that’s very topical currently an could help people significantly is reducing the 5 week wait between making a Universal Credit claim and receiving the first payment. The Trussell Trust have launched a campaign called #5weekstoolong and you can join in by signing the petition to call on the government to reduce if not scrap this waiting time that is built into the claim period. Details are here: https://action.trusselltrust.org/5weekstoolong

Live on £1 a Day: Emma Day 3

I’m really feeling it now.  I’m tired and hungry and fed up.

Breakfast is weetabix for everyone.  The kids also have yogurt (not in the budget) and we share banana.

In my rush to leave the house I forget my lunch (chicken sandwiches).  I could cry, but realise that I have always taken for granted that when that happens, I can pop out and get something else.  I count my blessings.  

Dinner looks good.  The kids love the potato wedges and spaghetti hoops, but I wish we had some protein and more veg.  I’d love a roast chicken right now. I’m hungry again very quickly after dinner and eat some biscuits.  My husband is very hungry, he could have eaten twice this amount.  I’m finding it a challenge to know how the share out the food we have.  The kids are small so should they get less, or more because they are growing?  My husband could eat more than the rest of us put together, so should he get more?  I don’t know.  How can I make these choices?

I top up the kids with fruit and milkshakes (not in the budget).

END

We know that mums often go without food and other expenses (new clothing for example) to ensure their children are fed and clothed and have their needs met and we expect that there are several partners who ensure their other half is seen to before themselves also – so they are at least 3rd in line in terms of needs being met.

In the film ‘I, Daniel Blake’, one thing that struck many viewers was when Katie (the female lead), on receipt of her food parcel, opened a tin immediately and started eating. Many were shocked, but sadly this is something we see every week at least during the foodbank session. Due to time constraints or embarrassment, people often come to the foodbank after they have exhausted all other options and sometimes haven’t eaten for days.

All of our centres offer hot and cold drinks as well as biscuits and cake for those who come for our help, but 3 centres also offer a free hot meal for foodbank clients. This not only means the 3 day parcel stretches that bit further, but a hot meal can be enjoyed immediately and we are showing that little bit more care and love to those who access our service.