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Food and Beverage Buggies are FABB!

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There are many community-based projects that have sprung up to help vulnerable people across Norfolk during the COVID pandemic. Others were already well-established and have proved their worth before and during these difficult times. CAN has been working with many such groups, and we are pleased to be working with FABB.

Food and Beverage Buggies (FABB) is a group dedicated to taking a hot two-course meal, drinks, and sandwich bags for the next day to the homeless in Norwich, finding them in doorways, cemeteries, parks, wherever they may be. It supplements existing work being done by four soup kitchen groups at the Haymarket but fills a very vital mid-week need. FABB’s buggies are filled with food, drinks, warm clothing, boots and sleeping bags - and they are out in the city every Thursday, fifty-two weeks a year, from 7.00-9.00pm.

Co-ordinator Carol McWhinnie was inspired four years ago after seeing a city-wide shut-down on holiday, in response to a suspected terrorist situation. She was shocked by the extent of the presence of young people begging on the streets, with their whole lives contained just in a backpack. On returning home Carol quickly became involved in the Haymarket food kitchen in Norwich, working there every Sunday. The volume of ‘traffic’ reached around a hundred each Sunday.

Carol saw a different approach was possible. Rather than forming a queue, how about taking the meals direct to those who need them? She started FABB in September 2018 and the idea evolved quickly into an efficient process of cooking food at home, packing it into tinfoil boxes and delivering it via the buggies along the streets of Norwich, particularly the Prince of Wales Road and St Stephen’s Street areas. The principle is that clients receive a hot meal, and a ‘pack-up’ to see them through the next day.

“There are a lot of really vulnerable people in Norwich but some worry about queuing for food, being worried about potential violence and unwanted social contact.” said Carol.

During the COVID-19 pandemic FABB’s twenty volunteers have brought food to the hostels and temporary accommodation where the City Council has offered safer accommodation for the duration.

“Partnership is the key to support for the way FABB works” explains Carol. “Local supermarkets, via their Community Managers, have provided wonderful support, and it’s not just unsold ‘waste food’ that they supply. Morrison’s, for example has provided crates of brand-new fresh produce for deployment as needed. Waitrose, Lidl, Greggs, and M&S also contribute. The main part of our busy week is spent collecting the food donations.”

“Clients feel less stigmatised when the food comes to them – it’s more like being invited to dinner as a guest on the street. The clients know who we are, and they know we care. They trust us.”

Read more about FABB at Norwich Food Hub’s Facebook page.  

CAN helped with applying for funding from Norfolk Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund. CAN Community Development Officer Tonya Winsley advised on how best to describe FABB’s objectives and outcomes in pursuit of a successful bid, resulting in a £1,000 grant to fund its work. CAN is acting as bank account holder, so that expenditure can be remunerated to FABB volunteers in good time. It may also be that a more formal constitutional structure can help FABB in applying for funding and grants in the future.

If you run a community support group and would like more advice about finding funding or managing your project, get in touch with CAN’s Community Development Team on 01362 698216 or [email protected].