Photo gallery: Mountain of festive food on way to needy thanks to Buckingham Emergency Food Appeal, launched in Swafield, near North Walsham

Thousands of tonnes of donated food is on its way to those in need across England as an annual north Norfolk-based charity appeal celebrates its 26th year.

Potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions, and other fruit and vegetables, pasta, tinned fruit, mince pies and sugar are among the goods which are being shipped out this week from a distribution farm in Roudham, between Attleborough and Thetford.

Norfolk families have also been donating money to buy turkeys and all the

food is estimated to provide enough dinners for around 10,000 people on Christmas day, and perhaps 100,000 meals in total across the festive season.

The massive effort is organised by the Buckingham Emergency Food Appeal (Befa), started by the late Mike Buckingham, who farmed at Swafield, near North Walsham.

The food is distributed to shelters, hostels, and domestic violence shelters across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, and to projects in London and Manchester.

'Despite appalling weather and bad harvests, the generosity of farmers has been every bit as great as last year,' said Peter Bowles who, with his wife Polly, ran Befa for six years following the illness and death of Mr Buckingham.

Most Read

'Potatoes are now worth three or four times what they were last year but people have given us the same amount.'

Among other donors, Pasta Foods in Great Yarmouth, had given 13 tonnes of pasta, and a bakery in Manchester had given 4,000 boxes of mince pies.

Children at more than 50 Norfolk schools, and one in Cambridgeshire, had brought in nearly four tonnes of sugar for the appeal which would be matched, up to two tonnes-worth, by Silver Spoon.

Organisers wanted to say a special 'thank you' to the hauliers, many of whom did not charge Befa, for the vital role they played.

After an unsuccessful appeal last year for volunteers to take over the organisation from Mr and Mrs Bowles, Befa is now paying a part-time co-ordinator, Ken Smith, who started the Cambridge Food Bank.

Mr Bowles said the alternative would have been for Befa to fold and it did an immense amount of good work.

The couple, from Spa Common, North Walsham, are showing Mr Smith the ropes this year but they plan to take a back seat next year.