Norfolk foodbanks see Covid-19 demand surge
Foodbanks across Norfolk, including in Norwich, have seen large increases in the numbers of families needed crisis food support during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Statistics from the end of January show Norwich Foodbank is helping 22% 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.
Project manager Hannah Worsley said the foodbank's 10 distribution centres closed and they moved to a delivery model due to Covid restrictions. "We have seen a lot more families, which is around half of our total. The number of single people has gone down to 40%. 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'."
Hannah 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.
Meanwhile, the Rev Matthew Price and 60 volunteers have been providing food support to those in need at Gorleston Foodbank at St Mary Magdalene Church.
Matthew told the EDP that 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."
Helen Gilbert has been manager of King's Lynn Foodbank for nearly 18 months. She saw massive peaks during the lockdowns with 700 people coming in March and April, in addition to just over 600 people during November.
"In normal circumstances, if we had anywhere near 500 that would have been a big month for us," Helen said. The monthly average for 2020 is 506 compared to 335 in 2018.
Article extracts from EDP24
Pictured top is Norwich Foodbank project manager Hannah Worsley.