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. 

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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! 

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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: 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. 

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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?

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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.

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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.

Dawn Lent 2021 – Day 2

Last night wasn’t too bad. I slept really well and wondered if all the carbs and calories helped? (I certainly ate far more of each than I usually do). Or maybe it was drinking less caffeine? I cant say I am very excited about more rice and dahl for dinner but I’m not hungry and the porridge went down well (though we are going to run out of milk soon) – we are actually eating bigger portions than usual to fill us up. I can’t say this is a healthy diet and not one I would recommend for anyone for more than a few days… and really, its only nice because I have a drawer of spices (which is not in the budget, so I’m cheating). I imagine, without this, dinner would be pretty horrible. This must be what our families foodbank users have to live with – eating whatever is available or whatever they are given – and it is a sobering thought.

I told some colleagues at work about this and everyone was really supportive – we talked about how to make food cheaper and I realise how tough/impossible this is… some collective thoughts:

“vegetables are really cheap” I worked out that a veggie curry (vegetables and chickpeas) would cost me about £4.20 to make (with rice) but that thiswould only last us for 2 meals (with me having left overs for lunch) and that has taken up over 40% of my budget…so actually, vegetables are NOT cheap and this only provided food for 2 days, with no breakfast (and no lunch for my daughter). So – it might be a healthy option – but it is not a cheap one.

“you can get some great bargains if you shop around” – this is indeed true but how can you shop around if you don’t have the bus fare or petrol money? Also, many of our foodbank users work, so how can they find the time, never mind the energy and the extra travel cost?

“buying in bulk makes things cheaper” – yes it does, but you can only do this if you have money to start with – and bulk buying is not possible with only £10. And many families end up making tough choices, like feeding their children and not themselves. Pre lockdown, I often stopped to talk to a homeless man in town and he told me he ALWAYS fed his dog before he fed himself (the dog always looked better than him).

The highlight of my day was eating the cupcake my daughters friend gave us yesterday, with a cup of tea, when I got in from work – I think I ate it in 5 seconds flat…. It wasn’t just because the cake was so nice, but because someone had made such a kind gesture.

No pictures the food look exactly the same except there is less cabbage…

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During the pandemic, lots of the foodbank’s donors have asked how they can help in different ways and one ‘extra’ thing the charity has done specifically is to accept fresh donations, in a limited way so as not to waste anything that ‘turns’ and taking into account the heat in the warehouse (usually either freezing or baking!), so just from a few select donors who are known when they will come and what they will bring. Norwich foodbank now receives regular donations of bread from Bread Source, eggs from a local farmer and fresh fruit and veg (potatoes, carrots, onions, apples, cabbage / sprouts) from the Norwich Christadelphians. Not only does this provide at least one more meal alongside the 3-day food parcel, but also some healthy options and an encouragement to cook, which many of those who receive the help say they miss as it feels like a luxury.

As part of the Trussell Trust, Norwich foodbank uses a specific picking list for each food parcel – single, couple, family, etc – and these lists are made in conjunction with a nutritionist to ensure that the 3-days supply of food is nutritionally balanced. While all the items are tins, jars and packets, tinned vegetables and fruit are included but fresh pieces to complement what is given is such a joy.

Dawn Lent 2021 – Day 1

I went shopping and took my daughter along so we could double check the shop. What feels like a challenge rapidly become very anxiety inducing. I made a list and had an extras list in case we were under budget. How different this is to usual, when I just buy what we want and don’t really worry about the cost. We debate the ‘extras’ – shall we buy raisins to liven up the porridge? We don’t have enough. Or more veg? Ditto, not enough. Or something nice to go with our pancakes? We settle on 3 bananas. I have a car, so we go to Aldi (where we usually go) but I can see that, if I had to walk to the local Coop, my shop would be much more expensive… The poor, as we know, pay more.

Our total food cost is £9.64 for the week but with almost no vegetables (a cabbage, ½ cauliflower and 3 bananas). The rice and lentil portions look worryingly small (100g lentils and 200g rice a day seemed a lot but it actually isn’t). Syrup was too expensive, so we have sugar instead and lemon juice in a bottle (as it was cheaper than a real lemon).

So far, it’s not been too bad, though mostly because I ate 3 biscuits at work and had 2 cups coffee and then my best friend brought me cake for lunch (as she knew I was doing this). And then, someone sent my daughter birthday cupcakes (10 days late but very much welcomed!) and we had 1 each with a cup of tea. We plan to have another one while listening to Boris Johnson tonight.

Our menu for the week is:

Breakfast – porridge with sugar (raisons, fruit and syrup are out as too expensive)

Lunch – for me, leftovers: for my daughter – bagels with baked beans or spaghetti hoops (no margarine or vegan cheese – way too expensive).

Dinner – rice and dahl with cabbage every single night – we can stretch to potato or cauliflower fritters on 2 or 3 nights if I am careful.

Pudding – vegan pancakes (to cheer us up) with sugar and lemon (no fruit). We don’t usually eat pudding but flour is cheap and I don’t want my daughter to feel hungry.

Drinks – tea with milk or lemon juice. No coffee, no herb tea or rooibos (my usual favourite).

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Norwich foodbank receives referrals every day from people who say they are completely on their own with no friends or family to ask for help or who have exhausted these options due to family and friends personal constraints or embarrassment at needing to ask for help ‘again’. Our communities are so different from previous generations when people knew their neighbours and whole street and you could just pop round to ask for a bit of food or company or whatever was needed, because chances were you would do the same in return if / when needed. But currently, regardless of lockdown, this just rarely happens and so many people are genuinely alone and not known and worringly, the charity expects there are even more ‘hidden’ people in need who aren’t receiving their or any other support.

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?

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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.