Help the Evening News “Fill The Foodbank” and stop people in Norwich going hungry

Today the Evening News launches our new 'Fill The Foodbank' campaign to try and help one of Norwich's faster-growing charities ease the shocking amount of people going hungry in our city.

The Norwich Foodbank is busier than ever, with latest government figures showing that 30,000 people in the Greater Norwich area are living on the edge of poverty.

With the tough economic climate and rising unemployment, more and more families are finding it difficult to put proper food on the table.

The figures show that 32pc of children in Norwich, , around 6,500, are affected by income deprivation, ranking Norwich as high as 30th in terms of income-deprived children nationally.

Over the next two weeks the Evening News will be taking a more in-depth look at the vital work that Norwich Foodbank does in our communities.

We will meet those who have been saved by the system, the volunteers who keep the charity running and the care professionals who have seen the difference it can make to people.

We'll be encouraging our readers to help us try and 'Fill The Foodbank', with project manager of Norwich Foodbank, Grant Habershon, sure we can make a real difference.

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He said: 'The whole concept is very simple. If people could afford to contribute just one or two items from their weekly or monthly shop to us, we would be able to help all the people in crisis in the area. And I'm sure everyone wants to help people who are in a crisis.'

Poverty and lack of food are problems that are often thought to only affect people in third-world countries, but there are also people going hungry right here in Norwich.

In fact a shocking 30,000 people in the Greater Norwich area are living on the edge of poverty, according to government figures.

It is a statistic that may surprise many, but not the volunteers at Norwich Foodbank who are fighting hard every day to feed the people in our city who are going hungry.

The charity provides three days of emergency food to individuals and families in crisis. It works with local care professionals in the area, who refer people to them using food vouchers handed out to those most in need of a good meal.

These vouchers can then be exchanged at a number of distribution centres around the city for food supplies, as well as a cup of coffee, people to talk to and information about other services which could help them out of their crisis.

Foodbank is there for people who have no financial safety net who are struck by unexpected difficulties in life, such as a family member dying, redundancy, illness or benefit delay.

It is those unexpected shocks in life that can happen to anyone and suddenly leave someone living on the edge of poverty and unable to feed themselves or their family.

It means Foodbank comes to the aid of some people in desperate situations, as project manager of Norwich Foodbank, Grant Habershon, recalls. He said: 'We once had a wife leave her husband and children and then clear out the bank account who needed our help.

'There was another when we were called by social services to a family of two adults and three children, and they only had a bag of rice between them.

'It was an immigration issue and the father was a professional who had been kept waiting for his visa.

'But you hear some nice stories as well, like one little girl who opened up one of our emergency boxes and said 'look mummy, we're rich', so it's not all bad.

'There was another lady who donated three bottles of juice and said to one of our volunteers that it was only two months ago that she had got a food parcel from us, and that had been the first time in a couple of months that her kids had seen juice.

'It's wonderful to be able to help those sort of people.'

But the amount of people in those situations in Norwich will shock many.

The Department for Communities and Local Government stated in the Index of deprivation 2010 that 32pc of children (around 6,500) in Norwich are affected by income deprivation.

This ranks Norwich as high as 30th in terms of income-deprived children nationally - out of the 354 local authority areas in England - which, worryingly, means the number of children affected by income deprivation in Norwich is in the top 10pc.

Research from Insight East suggests this is because the poor are getting poorer in the east of England and the impact this has on children in the region is severe in some locations - with Norwich featuring within the 40 areas of England with the highest percentages of employees earning less than �7 per hour.

It is a worsening situation that is seeing Norwich Foodbank - a little over a year from launching - become busier and busier. In January of this year the Foodbank supplied 55 emergency food boxes, but in August they gave out 335.

Mr Habershon, has been delighted with the success but knows there is a lot of work to be done to continue meeting the ever-increasing demand.

He said: 'The statistic that children in Norwich are among the top 10pc affected by income deprivation in England is really shocking, and I'm sure one that people in Norwich really don't want to hear.

'When people are earning less than �7 an hour and have a family to feed, all their money coming in, goes straight back out. So a crisis goes and that balance goes, and then you're really in a crisis.'

Has the Norwich Foodbank saved you in a time of crisis? Call reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or email