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Challenging and eventful year for Fair Frome

FROME charity Fair Frome, now in its eighth year, has had a challenging but ultimately successful year in meeting its aim to provide practical support for those experiencing financial, health and social difficulties. 

The charity said, “For many people in Frome the past year has been an extremely difficult one. The pandemic isn’t over, with many people with acute health and financial needs continuing to feel anxious, isolated and struggling to feed themselves and their families.  

“The reductions in Universal Credit, rising fuel bills and inflation are already hitting individuals and families locally and adding to their burdens. Over 40% of our food bank users are in work, but with high local prices and low wages they are unable to make ends meet.  

“As a very local charity we have continually kept our doors open and as well as providing practical support, also provided emotional support to those who come to our doors in crisis. 

“Over the past year some of the services we have provided or will be distributing over the next few weeks include: 

“Our Food Bank which has given out food parcels to 306 individuals, 140 couples and 401 families over the past year, many of them delivered to families shielding during lockdowns with additional fresh food like eggs, bread, milk and cheese and fruit and vegetables from the Frome Food Hub and Vallis Veg. This number has spiked dramatically over the past two months alongside the impact of the cuts in Universal Credit. 

“Collected 48,000kgs of food and distributed it through our food bank and local schools. 

“Preparing over 200 Christmas parcels filled with food and Christmas goodies. 

“Given out over 2,000 vouchers through the food bank for fresh fruit and veg from a local shop. 

“Given out over 1,500 meat vouchers for a local butcher to provide quality and fresh food. 

“Preparing 300 Christmas presents to distribute to referred children, with help from Frome Inner Wheel. 

“For the first time, this year led The Frome Big Christmas Get Together.  

“Food at Five Takeaway: Our team has provided over 100 hot meals every week in 3 different areas of the town, free to anyone on benefits or low income. 

“Holiday Hunger: Provided an average of 30 meals per session 3 times per week in school holidays, combined with activities provided by Purple Elephant. All families referred and activities and food provided free of charge. 

“Furniture Bank:  Provided free white goods and household furniture to referred families and individuals, many in crisis. These have been donated, refurbished and recycled, therefore saving them from going to landfill and reducing our carbon footprint. We have also provided repairs to, or free white goods, to referred people when not in our stock. 

“Assistance Scheme: Providing school uniforms, refurbished laptops for children doing remote learning, and many other essential items to referred families. Frome Lions and Rotary have worked with us to provide funding for the more expensive items such as carpets. 

“Food for Schools: Delivered additional food parcels to Frome schools for families on Free School Meals. 

“Facilitated housing drop-in and advice sessions from our centre. 

“Organising 60 tickets for the Christmas Merlin show and the Memorial Panto for families to attend through Frome Town Rotary funding.

“Distributed 250 free copies of Marcus Rashford’s book.  

“Brand new knitted items donated by volunteers are also distributed; blankets, baby clothes, hats and gloves, 520 knitted Easter chicks and 430 knitted Christmas stockings. 

“Preparing to distribute 97 football kits, selection boxes, books and match tickets to children with families on low incomes, courtesy of Frome Town FC players, directors and supporters. 

“Supported local businesses through our purchasing. 

“Organised local meetings with other statutory and voluntary groups to look at levels of need and coordinate practical support. 

“Supported 40 volunteers, with some referred by the Job Centre and Somerset Skills. 

“Campaigned on issues relating to local poverty, including the retention of Free school Meals during school holidays, to keep the Universal Credit uplift and with the Local Citizens Advice, to provide a benefits system which meets local needs.  

“We are also affiliated to the Independent Food Advisory Network (IFAN), the Living Wage Foundation and The Equality Trust and have supported their campaigns and contributed to national workshops on rural poverty. We have also campaigned for better access to local businesses and shops for those with hidden or visible disabilities.” 

Bob Ashford, chair of trustees adds, “On behalf of our trustees, I would like to give a huge thank you to everyone in Frome who has supported us over the past year – staff and volunteers, local Frome councils, businesses, charities, churches, schools, voluntary agencies and the many thousands of individual people and families who have donated their time, food and funds to help us continue our work.  

“The Pandemic and increases in costs, alongside benefit reductions, will continue to have a huge impact on our work. With our committed staff group, volunteers and trustees and the support of the strong local community, we will face those challenges as we have others and do all in our power to maintain and grow services to meet need.” 

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