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

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

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.

Live on £1 a Day: Emma Day 2

Up and out at 5am today for work, breakfast is overnight oats (oats and milk) on the train. I have had to be more organised than usual and plan / make food the night before. The kids have boiled eggs and toast, and I am again grateful for school / nursery meals – otherwise I would have to save the eggs for lunch.

It’s a really long day and I am getting lightheaded, so I wolf down lunch at 11am before I remember to take a photo. I’m offered a coffee at work and I’ve never been more grateful – I’m not sure if my headache is tiredness or withdrawal for the coffee. I have a whole banana to myself and feel really selfish for it; I should have shared it with the rest of the family.

By mid-afternoon I’m really really hungry, and have a desperate (and unsuccessful) rummage in my handbag for stray sweets. No luck. As soon as I get home I eat several biscuits and feel rather ill.

The kids are hungry and enjoy the spaghetti (spaghetti, veg and sardines). As soon as they realise there are sardines in the food they start messing around and throwing it on the floor – its infuriating and I feel like I haven’t brought them up correctly. Then I feel guilty, they are just kids after all. I didn’t like dinner either, and I feel bad I haven’t managed to make a ‘nice’ meal.

This evening I notice that I’m not hungry, but I feel bloated and unwell with all the stodge. I just want some food that I really like. I don’t feel like I have eaten well. When I’m bathing the kids they seem so fragile – especially my 3 year old – I need to make sure they are well and taken care of, and FED. They are so small and still growing. How would it affect them if they don’t get the nutrition they need?

END

At the risk of being repetitive – again! – as part of the Trussell Trust network, Norwich foodbank supplies nutritionally balanced food parcels, with 3 days of food. A report compiled by a nutritionist was updated in April 2018 and you can read it here: https://www.trusselltrust.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/06/Food_Parcel_Report_April_2018.pdf

The food parcel has enough food for breakfast, lunch and dinner plus some drinks and snacks (tea / juice / chocolate / instant noodles for example) and assumes the recipient has nothing to add – so therefore 9 complete meals. As all items are non-perishable, it is a little limiting but will still meet the nutritional needs of the person during the 3 day period the food covers.

This is why foodbanks so often say ‘we really need X’ (see yesterday’s post – pasta sauce and sponge puddings!) or sometimes ‘we don’t need X’ (for example we’re really well stocked with baked beans, soup, pasta and cereal) because we need to include a variety of items including, but not limited to, the foodstuffs we have in abundance.

We hope this helps to explain what goes in a parcel and why we are sometimes so prescriptive!

Live on £1 a Day: Emma Day 1

Porridge for breakfast (made with water for the grown ups, and milk for the kids – I’m already worried the milk won’t last all week). The kids are hungry and hoover up today’s banana allowance for all of us between them.  Well, I’ll miss the fruit later but right now I’d rather they were well fed.  

Preparing the sandwiches for lunch, my husband is embarrassed that I’ve given him two sandwiches but only one for me.  Well, he’s bigger and uses more energy!  The kids steal some of the sliced chicken – they are hungry, growing children.  I’m relieved I don’t need to worry about lunch or dinner for them, as they will be at school and nursery.

Mid morning and I’m starving and have a headache from coffee withdrawal.  I drink lots of water and look forward to my sandwich.  It’s not very filling and I really notice that the budget bread and meat seems less substantial. The afternoon drags, I’d usually have something sweet after lunch.  I can’t wait for dinner.  The afternoon drags and it’s hard to concentrate on work.

As soon as I get home we have some apple slices (I realised that chopping fruit up makes it go further) and I really appreciate the fresh crunchy fruit after a day of beige food.

I’m pleased with the chicken stew I made for dinner (chicken, veg and oats) – some salt would help but it’s good anyway.  I am really craving coffee and sugar and it’s making me grumpy. The kids want dessert so I top them up with yogurt, grapes and milk (not in the budget!) and have a biscuit myself.  I don’t want to think about how it would feel if I didn’t have the extra food to give them.  How do you explain to a hungry 3 year old that you can’t feed them?

END

We’ve mentioned about our FISH clubs previously – Food (and Fun) In School Holidays – where we invite local families who struggle during the holidays (when free school meals aren’t available) to enjoy a free hot meal and free fun activities. We know this is a lifeline to many of the families who attend and the only meal some of the children will get that day. In spite of this, we have heard from local schools that free school meal take up is low and people who are eligible, haven’t signed up. Part of this is lack of awareness of this service and how to sign up, but some is definitely embarrassment of needing this support and, as with foodbank, the potential stigma of using this service. More information is here: http://www.schools.norfolk.gov.uk/school-administration/free-school-meals/index.htm

We know also that there is low take up from eligible families of Healthy Start vouchers – support with buying milk and fresh fruit and vegetables for pregnant women and mums of those under 4 years old. More info about eligibility and how to claim is here: https://www.healthystart.nhs.uk/

Live on £1 a Day: Emma’s Shop

Years of meal planning and budgeting with a young family (two grown ups, a 7 year old and a toddler) have left me feeling well-equipped for this challenge.  Although £4 per day for a family is a smaller budget than I’ve had in the past, I am interested to see what is achievable with some thought and planning.

I confess that after half an hour browsing online grocery shopping my enthusiasm was waning a little.  I don’t know what sort of food to prioritise – pasta, bread and porridge to keep us full, but we need fruit, veg and protein too and I’m surprised at how expensive this is.  We definitely can’t afford tea, coffee or chocolate, puddings or yogurts. I realise we will also miss stock cubes, herbs, salt and cooking oil a lot this week.

I find room in the shopping basket for a packet of biscuits, and think about how much money we spend on food we like rather than the food we actually need.  I can’t find a way for us all to have enough veg and a piece of fruit every day, and I’m not sure whether the kids will eat some of the dishes I have planned.  (What if they don’t?  They’ll be hungry without snacks to keep them going.  I realise what a privilege it is to have options and how awful the pressure to feed your kids must be if you don’t). Its stressful trying to balance all these priorities and I don’t know what the right answer is.  Feeling like a bad mother I pack the shopping basket with tinned tomatoes and pasta, and hope it will all fall into place somehow.

I thought about ‘click and collect’ but this would cost £2 – I never really thought about the hidden costs around our weekly shop! I spent £18.74, leaving £1.26 to spare. 

END

We are so grateful to all those who support us with donations. This blog reminded me that we have really incredible donors and some of them will do a food shop and have it delivered directly to the foodbank warehouse! Sometimes this is done anonymously and sometimes we have the donor’s details so we can thank them which is great and we’ve had deliveries from all the major supermarkets. Just remember to switch the address back to your home address for the next shop… we received someone’s shopping once because of this! If you are thinking of donating, check with your local foodbank as to what they need most – Norwich foodbank currently needs long life sponge puddings and pasta sauce please.