Action Zones 

'Down to last few coppers' - shocking truth behind huge foodbank demand 

19th February 2021
Ben Hardy, Great Yarmouth Mercury, reports

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A volunteer sorts through the food donations at the Gorleston foodbank - Credit: Matthew Price

Being in refuge after a nasty break-up was difficult enough for a mother of three. But a car crash, leading to a leg amputation, meant she lost her work income - leaving her family in a perilous position. The mother, who did not want to named, is one of countless people who have seen Covid and other factors push them to the brink of despair and going hungry. She is also one of countless people who have reason to be grateful for foodbanks for she received support from the St Mary Magdalene Church foodbank in Gorleston. She said: "Losing my job and then having a series of things go wrong throughout lockdown with no PIP money was just horrendous. I was literally down to my last few coppers each week. I was really too proud to ask for help but it got so bad I just needed something". Her children, aged 18 and 13, were able to receive hot meals thanks to the foodbank

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A volunteer at the St Mary Magdalene Church foodbank in Gorleston - Credit: Matthew Price 

The Rev Matthew Price and 60 volunteers have stepped up to provide help to those in need, catering for dietary requirements and vegetarians as well

Revd Price said the church, which hosts one of the depots of Great Yarmouth foodbank, had seen an increase in families needing support during the pandemic

"We are the sixth most deprived area in the county" he said. "People were living on the edge just about managing but the pandemic suddenly tipped them over that edge

"There was a phone call from one lady who had got herself into debt and had been visited by the bailiff, while another single mother with a 12-year-old told us she did not need benefits but had literally no food left in the house. We assured her she would be sent a food parcel" 

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Revd Matthew Price, vicar of Gorleston's St Mary Magdalene Church is pictured on the right with a volunteer - Credit: Matthew Price

Gorleston resident and volunteer Julie Hanks, 63, added: "It really ramped up when the pandemic first started. We have had a massive amount of requests which is quite an eye-opener really.

"People and supermarkets have been so generous with donations. The pandemic shows a different side to people and has made us all look at life differently. I love being a part of this team."

Elsewhere in the county, both Norwich Foodbank and King's Lynn Foodbank have seen an increase in families needing support during the pandemic. 

Statistics from the end of January show Norwich Foodbank is helping 22 per cent more people compared to this time last year. 

The number of volunteers was around 200 before the pandemic, but that halved in two days with people shielding or not feeling comfortable going out during the first lockdown in March

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A hive of activity at the St Mary Magdalene Church foodbank in Gorleston - Credit: Matthew Price

Project manager Hannah Worsley said the foodbank's 10 distribution centres closed and they moved to a delivery model due to Covid restrictions. She said: "We thought it would be busier and we were prepared. We were able to meet every request. The supply has met demand. We have seen a lot more families, which is around half of our total. The number of single people has gone down to 40pc. We are also seeing a lot more people come for the first time. Many people are on furlough so their income has reduced, while heating and fuel bills have really drained a lot of people. We hear people say 'I never thought I would need to be here" 

The project manager recalled one couple, both in their 60s, being left with just £5 on their gas and electric meters having both recovered from Covid. One had undergone an operation as well

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Project manager Hannah Worsley . Photo: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Another young family were in a perilous situation as the woman was not being paid at the time as she was working towards a nursing qualification, while her partner was furloughed and saw his income dramatically reduced

this article first appeared on the Great Yarmouth Mercury website and is used with permission