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.
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