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.

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.

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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.

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: Angie Day 1

Got up, walked the dogs and got ready for work. When I arrived, there was a cup of tea on my desk waiting for me – I have some lovely colleagues!  I started to feel hungry around 11:30am, but as I said before I am trying not to eat until 12pm; I left my lunch where it was and sat it out.

Lunch was homemade tomato, onion and butterbean soup. I also added a handful of pasta to try and make sure that it was as filling as possible. I’d used potatoes to thicken it up and myself and my partner had two slices of bread and olive oil spread. I have to say that I didn’t notice the difference in the bread even though we had omitted the sugar from the dough. It was very nice and I am extremely glad that I had bought stock cubes in my shop as I think it would have been pretty bland without.

The afternoon went well and I had several cups of tea made for me and I drank plenty of water. I usually graze throughout the afternoon, even if it is healthy grazing that I do and I missed this a lot. I found an apple on my desk and gave it to a colleague although I would have loved to have eaten it myself. By about 4:30pm I was getting really hungry; I started thinking a lot about food and what I could make with all the potatoes we bought. 

I didn’t leave work until 6pm as I was meeting some friends to go for a run. I am lucky that I have a hobby that, once you have the kit, it’s free, but it does make you think about what you would do if you needed new trainers and had to choose between new trainers to allow you to continue doing something that you enjoy and is good for your mental wellbeing, or having food to give you the fuel to do it.

I often find that running dulls my appetite and when I got home I wasn’t that hungry. At around 8pm, we had beans on toast as that was something simple and quick. I missed adding some chopped chilli to my beans – I grow my own and have a freezer with lots of varieties – but I was determined to stick to what I bought so they stayed in the freezer. I often grate some cheese on top as well, but left that off as I need enough for my pizza, broccoli and cheese soup and for any pasta I will be making later in the week.  It does make you think about the things you take for granted…

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We’ve mentioned before during these blogs about the nutritionally balanced food parcels, as set out by the Trussell Trust, but it’s worth mentioning again! Today, we had a school visit from a year 5 class who came with a large donation of items and lots of well thought out questions. One student asked ‘how much money do you [the foodbank] spend on food each week?’ and the answer is not very much at all, thanks to our amazing supporters, listening to our needs and responding. We send out a monthly ‘most / least needed’ list to those who have requested it (around 80 recipients, several who represent groups), highlighting the items that we really need, but also the items we don’t need due to high stock levels.

If you’re local to Norwich and would like to support us, look at our website and social media pages to see updates on what we do and don’t currently need. If Norwich isn’t your local foodbank, get in touch with them as we know they would really appreciate giving you up to date info on how best you can help.

Live on £1 a Day: Kathryn’s Shop


Live on £1 a Day: Kathryn’s Shop

The Pitch

It all started with a question – would I be interested in taking part in a project to showcase issues around food poverty, budget shopping and healthy eating?  Yes of course I would – happy to participate in any way. Great in theory and the premise of it – you have £5 to feed yourself for 5 days. On paper that sounds easy – simple maths told me it was £1 per day. And then I started to ACUTALLY think about it – and comparing to my current lifestyle, I found myself analysing my current decisions, my current food habits, how I shop and what the impact of this would mean…

The Questions

Once I started to think about it many questions popped up:

  • If I drink more water (which is good for me) would I need to budget for more toilet paper?
  • Would travelling to a ‘budget’ supermarket out-weigh the costs of shopping locally – and, often, more expensively?
  • Can I stick to a rigid plan – without the freedom of changing my mind?
  • Can I be organised enough to plan ahead for meals?
  • In ‘reality’ I don’t have to worry about money on my electric meter – what would I do if that was an issue too?

The Support

I was annoyed at first that a couple of people that I spoke to about this forthcoming period immediately said to me “don’t worry, I’ll take you out for lunch one day” – my first reaction was that they had missed the point of doing this appeal. However, on reflection I have realised that I have an amazing support network around me – family, friends and neighbours.  I know that, should I be in dire straits or needed help, it would be available. I’m also acutely aware that I am blessed to be in this situation – many are alone and don’t have this network around them. Furthermore, I am sure not many people would announce they only have £5 to last them the next 5 days….!  

The Slimming World Dilemma

I’ve been a member of Slimming World for a couple of years and achieved my 2.5 stone loss award and was working towards by 3 stone loss certificate. Very quickly it became clear that following SW plans and meals wasn’t going to be possible – trying to replace low fat foods (meat products) and increasing fruit and vegetable intake has been my focus for so long.   With a very limited budget these principles can’t be met. For those on tight budgets and trying to lose weight, I can see the two don’t marry up. It should not be more expensive to eat healthily – rather than have convenience food – but that is a debate for another time!

The Shop

I have to say, doing the shopping for my 5 days was, probably, one of the most stressful shopping trips I have ever had!

Again reflecting on my current shopping habits – I tend to shop online and have it delivered. I’ve found over time if I go into a supermarket I buy more as I’m easily influenced by items on sale etc  However, I appreciate there is a luxury of having my shopping appear at my door.

Constant checking of prices and re-evaluating choices meant it took a long time to ensure I had enough food (I hope) that came under £5.


Total spend:  £4.85.

(FYI – couldn’t find anything to buy for 15p!).

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If you follow Norwich foodbank on social media, you may see that the Carrow Road collection brought in a huge amount of donations – both money and food – and we’re extremely grateful for the support we receive. If you would like to support the foodbank in this way, our current needs are: instant mash, high content meat products (corned beef, ham, etc), toothpaste and Easter Eggs. Please do visit our website for details of where to donate.