People turning to foodbanks for the first time in north Norfolk, charities report

Tim Morton who works for Cromer food bank at Cromer Methodist Church. Picture: Danielle Booden

Tim Morton who works for Cromer food bank at Cromer Methodist Church. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

Families are turning for help to foodbanks for the first time with one north Norfolk charity reporting 30pc more people using their service compared to this time last year.

The increase in demand comes amid a cost of living crisis which has seen the average bill for groceries rise by 5.2pc since last year, petrol prices surge following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and inflation hit its highest level in nearly a decade.

In spite of these soaring costs, North Norfolk Foodbank has not yet seen a sudden spike in demand, although Tim Morton, the organisation's project manager, said it is probably too early to see any general trends.

Cromer food bank at Cromer Methodist Church. Picture: Danielle Booden

Cromer food bank at Cromer Methodist Church. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

"We get people everyday through our website or on the phone to say they are really struggling and asking how can they get help," he said.

"A lot of people are saying they've never had to do this before.

"The numbers of children using the foodbank are up a bit, not by a huge amount, but there are more families caught up in poverty without doubt."

The charity covers a 200 square mile area of north Norfolk, with its headquarters in Cromer Methodist Church Hall, as well as satellite centres in Sheringham, Holt, Aylsham, North Walsham and Stalham.

Food vouchers issued by various agencies across the district determine how many parcels the charity puts together each week.

The North Norfolk News has launched a Your Money Matters campaign.

The North Norfolk News has launched a Your Money Matters campaign. - Credit: Archant

The boxes are then either collected at one of the centres or delivered.

Those using the service can claim a voucher, while also being referred to either Citizens Advice or North Norfolk District Council's (NNDC) Help Hub, which can tap into a range of support mechanisms for budgeting, housing and benefits issues.

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Mr Morton said the charity issued 151 vouchers in March last year. This year, during the same month, the number climbed to 199.

In total, over the last year, the foodbank issued 1,830 vouchers.

So far this year they have been giving out approximately 200 vouchers per month. If that trend continues, Mr Morton said, the next twelve months will see them issue 2,400 vouchers - a 30pc increase.

Cromer food bank at Cromer Methodist Church. Picture: Danielle Booden

Cromer food bank at Cromer Methodist Church. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

Mr Morton also referred to some other foodbanks which have been reporting decreases in donations.

"We're not in that position at the moment. There's been no huge drop for us," he said.

Food donations were down 8pc from February to March, from just over 5,000 kg to 4,700k, he said.

The charity is short of certain items including tinned fruit, tinned tomatoes and pasta sauce, which they have been buying in to top up the stock.

"But this is not unusual, because we have money set aside for that from financial donations," Mr Morton said.

Merchants' Place on Church Street in Cromer

Merchants' Place on Church Street in Cromer opens a community fridge four days a week. - Credit: Google Maps

At Merchant's Place on Church Street in Cromer, there is a community fridge which opened in July 2020 and now supports around 70 families a week.

Hannah Rolph, 27, who works at the centre, said: "In the last month it's been particularly busy.

"We're always busy here but we have seen an increase since the beginning of April. We've seen quite a lot of new faces over the last few weeks."

She said that one man in his early 60s has stopped switching on his lights at night and instead he sits in darkness. People are scared of how it's going to impact them," she said.

The fridge is open four days a week, and approximately 25 people visit on those days.

Ms Rolph said it is open for emergency food support only and that people tend to visit once every fortnight.

She also mentioned a lack of donations, which normally come from baskets in supermarkets where people can leave food for charities.

"If people are worried about their finances they're going to be focussing on their own shopping and not buying anything extra. People are concerned about the price increases and they're donating less," she said.

Sadie Houghton outside the Sheringham Community Fridge

Sadie Houghton outside the Sheringham Community Fridge which is run by the charity Yesu. - Credit: Daniel Hickey

Sadie Houghton, who runs Yesu Community Fridge in Sheringham, said: "We have had a steady increase of people using the fridge since last autumn.

"It has been a fairly steady increase. I wouldn't say that in the last month we've suddenly had a lot more people."

Approximately 25 to 30 people use the fridge each day.

Ms Houghton said: "I have had conversations with people who are really concerned, who are not spending money because of concerns how much things are going to cost."

She also said that donations have been "quieter for the past month".

*The North Norfolk News has launched a Your Money Matters campaign to find ways of helping people with the rising cost of living.