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Another challenging year for Fair Frome and Frome people in crisis

COORDINATORS of the Frome charity Fair Frome, now in its ninth year, say they have had a challenging but ultimately successful year in meeting its aim to provide practical support for those experiencing financial, health and social difficulties.

Food Bank volunteers.

Lenka Grimes and Rosie Oakley, the Fair Frome coordinators have said, “For many people in Frome the past year has been an extremely challenging one. 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 unable to make ends meet.

“This year we have priced the value of our food parcels we give out. We know already that between January and September 2021 the value of these was £68,000. For the same period this year this has risen to £98,000 (and this doesn’t include the inflation rise). We expect to see these figures rise as the cold weather kicks in and people’s fuel bills surge.

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

Over the past year the food bank has:

• Given out food parcels to 534 Individuals, 218 couples and 436 families over the past year, as well as providing additional items of fresh food like eggs, bread, milk, cheese and fresh fruit and vegetables.

• Collected and distributed 41,000kg of food (over 40 tons) through the food bank and local schools. • Delivered over 150 Christmas parcels filled with food and Christmas goodies to families through school referrals.

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

• Given out over 2,000 meat vouchers for a local butcher to provide quality and fresh food. • Given out over 700 bread vouchers for a local baker to provide quality and fresh bread.

• Given away over 300 toys and books for Christmas presents.

• Led The Frome Christmas Get-Together this year in three locations, which is providing 200 meals and company on Christmas Day.

• Food at Five Takeaway: The team have provided over 100 hot meals every week in three different areas of the town, free to anyone on benefits or low income. This started back inside in September, providing a warm space and a hot sit-down meal in a welcoming environment.

• Holiday Hunger: Provided an average of 35 meals per session three times per week in school holidays, combined with activities delivered by partner Purple Elephant, to referred families.

• Furniture Bank: Supported over 100 households in the Frome area. The team have repaired cookers and washing machines where possible and provided free white goods and household furniture to referred individuals, couples and families. These have been donated, refurbished and recycled, therefore saving them from going to landfill.

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

• Food for Schools: Delivered additional food parcels to schools, for families on free school meals.

• Produced signposting leaflets for Mendip, in partnership with IFAN in October, and their own cost of living crisis tips leaflet in June.

• Opened the Baby Basics Bank in November, providing baby equipment for referred families.

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

• Campaigned on issues relating to local poverty. With Mendip Citizens Advice, they ran a local event for statutory and voluntary agencies working with people impacted by the cost- of-living crisis to look at positive solutions.

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

Bob Ashford, chair of trustees said, “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 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 cost-of-living crisis will continue to have a huge impact on our work. The trustees and staff recognise the growing need for the services that Fair Frome provide and are considering what resources we will need to best serve the community in the future. This includes a review of our current workplaces, to provide an inclusive, accessible environment where people are treated with respect and dignity.

“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 the growing need.”

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