Fakenham's First Focus on tackling food poverty

First Focus assistant manager, Pauline Hicks.

First Focus assistant manager, Pauline Hicks. - Credit: Aaron McMillan

In the second instalment of this weekly series, reporter Aaron McMillan returned to community charity, First Focus in Fakenham. The free service provides a range of support but faces the risk of closure at the end of October without funding. This week, we look at the food support they offer to users and the community.

Every morning you are likely to find up to 20 people waiting patiently outside First Focus on Oak Street, to have a look at the community fridge.

The scheme, run by the charity, offers food close to its expiry date from the supermarkets across the town, for as little as five pence. This allows people who are struggling, to get fruit and veg, tinned goods, bread, pasta and ingredients such as flour to make meals.

The food on offer at the community fridge at First Focus in Fakenham.

The food on offer at the community fridge at First Focus in Fakenham. - Credit: Aaron McMillan

They also offer people food parcels and vouchers to go to the foodbank at the Salvation Army.

Food poverty has been increasing across not only Norfolk, but the entire country. With the pandemic putting extra strain on people, with unsettled employment and furlough meaning more people are reaching out for help.

First Focus is one of many groups in Norfolk trying to make sure nobody goes hungry. Their assistant manager, Pauline Hicks, said that around half of their users access the fridge, along with anywhere between 10 and 20 people in the morning, families and homeless people also use their services.

They limit the number of items any one person can take, to make sure everyone can get something.

They limit the number of items any one person can take, to make sure everyone can get something. - Credit: Aaron McMillan

Miss Hicks said the rise is continuing, with her seeing lots of new faces over the last three weeks. She is delighted that they can provide this lifeline for those in need, but worries about the impact it might have if they disappear.

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“It's the best job satisfaction you can have, because you think we could all be in that situation, every one of us,” she said.

“The thought that there is a lifeline out there somewhere that can help. Plus, everyone has knitted together, from the supermarkets, us, and the people that actually access the food is wonderful.

Some of the food on offer at the community fridge at First focus in Fakenham. 

Some of the food on offer at the community fridge at First focus in Fakenham. - Credit: Aaron McMillan

“A lot more people might go hungry without us, and the worrying thought that perhaps children will go without food which is vital for their growth, health and wellbeing.

“Also, people that perhaps have mental health problems, they worry that would invoke because they're not getting food, and they're worrying where the next meal is coming from.”

One of those who use the fridge is a former service user, come volunteer, Donna Morton. She has been visiting the service for around six years. Having come along with her father when it was housed in Miller’s Walk, she now offers her service in the kitchen.

Former service user, come volunteer, Donna Morton

One of those who use the fridge is a former service user, come volunteer, Donna Morton. - Credit: Aaron McMillan

She spoke about how the food has helped her and her family.

“I've only got one wage coming in at the moment, with two teenagers in the house, it's actually helping me out a lot to get the fruit and veg in what we need,” she said.

“It's helped me out and it has helped my parents as well because due to the lockdowns, they couldn’t come out of the house.

The food on offer at the community fridge at First Focus in Fakenham.

The food on offer at the community fridge at First Focus in Fakenham. - Credit: Aaron McMillan

“If this wasn’t here, it would be a case of looking around the supermarkets and finding food whose prices have been knocked down. You just have to keep a budget, and if you can't afford it, don't get it.”

Another who uses it is Shirley Terry. The 52-year-old has been using the service for the past two years. She said it helped her get access to food when she has been low and has been able to get her stuff like bread and cereal.

Shirley Terry has been using First Focus for the past two years.

Shirley Terry has been using First Focus for the past two years. - Credit: Aaron McMillan

She has been using the community fridge on and off over her time at First Focus. They have not only helped with food but provided a space for her after she moved to meet new friends and to help out with forms.

“I think I would feel lost without it because it is a big help," she said.

"You think that this is something that you could always rely on, and if it did go, it would be a bit of a downfall because a lot of people rely on it."

You can donate to First Focus by going here.

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