Oak Grove FISH club provides food, friendship and fun in Norwich
Around 20 children from the Catton area of Norwich had a delightful time at a recent FISH (Food and Fun in School Holidays) club organised by Oak Grove Community Church. Eldred Willey reports.
“We’re so grateful to have the connection with Norwich foodbank which makes this possible,” said Oak Grove’s pastor Darren Woodward. “It’s a great way of providing links with other organisations as well.”
The church has merged FISH with its Kidz Klub, and is partnering with foodbank to reach out to families in the local community. “I want to make sure that we are getting the people who really need it,” said Oak Grove youth leader Becca Savory.
As she cuts baking potatoes in the kitchen, Becca explains how the connection with Norwich foodbank’s Project Manager Hannah Worsley is achieving results.
“Hannah refers people who come to foodbank for vouchers,” she said. “We decided to hold our local foodbank on Tuesday evenings. When people come to collect their parcels we put on a simple meal and encourage families with kids to come to our FISH club the next morning.
“Hannah provides ideas for activities, and she will raid the shelves at foodbank if I need something. Sometimes I do crumble, and foodbank provides the flour.”
The club also has a pop-up library provided by Norfolk County Council with health and wellbeing funding. Research shows that children who read have a greater life expectancy, as reading widens horizons, raises expectations and improves self-awareness.
“We are inspiring the kids with their careers,” said Becca, “showing them what is out there in the world of work. Recently the police came in and did a crime scene investigation, taking people’s finger prints.”
Foodbank has also organised trips to White House Farm and Castle Museum. “The farm is quite an exclusive thing,” said Becca. “When the kids go back to school it raises their self-esteem to be able to say they did something interesting in the holidays.”
The club has done evaluations on its impact. “One girl was really shy at first,” said Becca. “She never came out of her shell. Her Nan fed back that she could really see a difference happening. The girl was becoming more confident and making a new set of friends.”
From the beginning of the Catton FISH club there has been a Bible element. “We have had some good conversations with parents after they heard the Bible verse,” reported Becca. “It opens up opportunities without being too heavy.
“One Mum came up to me and said: ‘Does this apply to me?’ We use a child’s language, which is easier for parents to pick up if they don’t understand church language.”
Because local companies recognise the name of foodbank, they are more than willing to support the club. Tesco has provided smoothies, and also 30 packed lunches for outings.
“Partnership has become a big thing,” said Becca. “You all start working together, rather than duplicating.”
Last summer Norwich foodbank worked with churches, charities and businesses to deliver eight FISH clubs across Norwich, with over 400 children attending at least once.
It was the sixth summer that the FISH Clubs had run, with growing numbers each year. In 2019 the joint effort amounted to 33 sessions and over 1,270 meals served, providing extra support to families who struggle when schools break up and free school meals end.
Pictured above are children at the Catton FISH club