‘A lot of people were not genuine’ - the foodbank taking a new approach to combat freeloaders

Paul Higgs of the Refreshingly Different Community Project in Great Yarmouth has set up a food club

Paul Higgs of the Refreshingly Different Community Project in Great Yarmouth has set up a food club to combat foodbank abuse Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Nicola Cook is happily paying £10 every month to join a new food club set up in Yarmouth to combat people taking advantage of goodwill.

The 48-year-old receives a membership key-ring entitling her to choose what she wants from the 'shop' filling two bags.

Having not selected quite enough she is asked to go back and top up, cramming a huge bag of flour into the carrier.

She says the Salvation Army foodbank is too far for her to walk but this is on her doorstep in Northgate Street and she is more than pleased by what is on offer.

Paul Higgs, founder of Refreshingly Different, said too many people coming in and taking food were not genuine, with many repeat offenders, so he formed a Food Club to deter those looking for a completely free ride.

Under the deal members pay £10 a month, usually on the day they are paid Universal Credit, and for that they receive two bags of shopping a week which they can pick off the shelves themselves at no extra cost.

"One of the reasons we are doing this is because we found a lot of people coming in were not genuine," he said.

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"They are coming in wearing Armani jeans and trainers.

"One guy came in the other week on his iPhone. I said 'mate if you were that desperate you would have sold it.

"We have found that most people we asked were happy to put something in the pot for a genuine service."

Alongside the foodbank service Mr Higgs runs a cut-price food business offering bargains sourced from multiple brands including items they can not sell because the labels are upside down, among other things.

The foodbank is supported by Fareshare, a charity aimed at eliminating food waste, as well as local organisations including Martha's Bakes and Cakes.

It also relies on donations from individuals but more are needed.

Mr Higgs, 52, said people were used to the idea of donating unwanted clothes and household items to charity but were not so forthcoming when it came to food.

His foodbank at 16 Northgate Street, is open seven days a week and re-stocked every few days.

At the launch of Refreshingly Different Food Club some 12 people signed up - people in a mix of circumstances who were struggling financially.