The Christ Church Food Cupboard
The Christ Church ‘Food Cupboard’ was started well over 20 years ago but remains as relevant today as when it was set up. In spite of the regeneration of one local estate, including the loss of many of its original residents, and rapid changes in the makeup of some of the local population as a result of spiralling local property prices, the parish and local area is still home to many people who struggle to make ends meet, including some who are literally roofless (street homeless). The growing gap between rich and poor is frightening.
How does the Food Cupboard operate?
Once a week we open the church building early – before the Charity Shop has opened, and offer cups or tea of coffee and a freshly made sandwich to anyone who calls in. Callers may also select a small number of grocery items from a list of what is available that week and take these away with them free of charge. Unlike many food banks people do not have to be referred by another agency to use this service and if they wish they can come every week. However the number of food items (mainly tinned or dried food) each person receives is small, much lower than that provided by a food bank. But there is usually enough to provide at least one full meal and we try to offer a balance of protein and carbohydrate. The number of callers varies from week to week but has increased over the past year, and is currently between 20 and 30 each week, and includes a few members of the church congregation.
The fact that only a small amount of food is available to any one caller on any one day means that those who make use of this service ‘need it’, and so we can operate without requiring referrals; the scheme is not abused.
The refreshments that are provided, and the warm and pleasant surroundings in which we operate, also provide a place for people to enjoy a chat together for half an hour and this aspect of the Food Cupboard is valued. During periods when the ‘cupboard has been bare’ and we have had no food to distribute, people have asked us to continue with the refreshments – something we have been very happy to do.
Occasionally we are able to signpost callers onto other services from which they can benefit.
Many of those who attend the Food Cupboard have little or no connection with the organised church, but most if not all are happy to take part in simple services we hold after a food cupboard session at Christmas and Easter, and following these one or two go on to attend other services.
Who runs the Food Cupboard?
The scheme is run directly by Christ Church. The Food cupboard is dependent on the generous support of others:
The volunteers who receive, sort and store donations, set up for each session, make the snawiches, serve the refreshments, distribute the food parcels and clear away afterwards. Currently we have a team of 4 or 5 regulars, including the vicar. Some are members of the church congregation, some are not but everyone enjoys helping make this ministry possible.
And most importantly the scheme depends on a network of churches and schools who donate food and in one case funds. Many of these connections go back to a ‘link church’ programme set up in the 1980’s, when Christ Church forged links with other churches in very different situations, many of them in semi-rural locations outside London. At Harvest time food collected at their Harvest Festival services has been donated to the Christ Church scheme. Over recent years as food banks have become more widespread, some of these churches have donated to more local schemes as well as, or instead of, brining donations to Christ Church. But some have continued the link, and indeed some have increased their support, running food collections throughout the year and making several large donations of food each year. Amongst those who support us are St Mary,Tatsfield together with their primary school; St Mary,Speldhurst; St John, Capel; St Barnabas, Dulwich; and Christ Church, East Sheen. Locally both Reay Primary School and our own Christ Church Primary SW9 have also collected and donated food to us at Harvest time.
We are very grateful indeed to these churches and schools, and local individuals, without whose support the scheme could not continue in its present form.