Church community tackles food poverty with message of hope
- Credit: Leslie Siu
The East of England Co-op's #EastTogether campaign, in partnership with Archant, explores the positive impacts of community action in the region. Charles Bliss spoke to the Reverend Leslie Siu about how Box of Hope provides nutritional and spiritual nourishment during the pandemic.
Food poverty is among the most salient issues in the public conversation, as Marcus Rashford’s free school meals campaign exposed the hunger crisis affecting millions of families across the UK.
Data from The Food Foundation shows that 14pc of UK families have experienced moderate or severe food insecurity since April 2020, accounting for four million people including 2.3 million children.
Addressing this problem on a grassroots level, Box of Hope is a community project organised by Wickham Market Church that seeks to provide sustenance to those in need by delivering emergency care packages direct to local residents’ doorsteps.
“The aim of Box of Hope is to help those who are struggling financially – particularly families struggling to put food on the table,” says the Reverend Leslie Siu, vicar of All Saints Church, Wickham Market and St Peter and St Paul, Pettistree. “We support families in need by providing them with a box of food delivered to their door every Tuesday.”
Box of Hope serves 12 families in the area – primarily families connected with Wickham Market Primary School and those in receipt of free school meals.
The project was initiated by Transforming Lives for Good (TLG), a Christian organisation working with churches nationwide to support young people. TLG launched Box of Hope in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in June 2020 and the concept was implemented in Wickham Market by Leslie in August.
The church offers practical assistance with its food parcels, but also offers nourishment of a different kind.
“We include ideas for family activities or books to encourage people to find hope spiritually as well.”
The food is sourced primarily from FareShare in Ipswich – a national food charity network working in partnership with supermarkets to redistribute surplus food. Goods are also procured via donations to the church and a grant from TLG, while members of the community occasionally contribute dry goods or produce from allotments.
Box of Hope also benefitted from a donation from the East of England Co-op.
“We received £360 in vouchers from East of England Co-op that we can use in their shops to purchase fresh food to top up the boxes,” Leslie explains. “We don’t have facilities for refrigeration and we are always short of fresh produce such as fresh fruit and vegetables, so the vouchers are a real help. We can also use them to purchase something special like a box of chocolates as a treat.
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“We are really thankful for all those who contribute to our project in different ways and not least the East of England Co-op for their generosity supporting the work going on in communities like ours.”
Leslie is committed to running the project until Easter, though he says it will likely continue beyond that.
“We’d love to do more in person and we have plans to bring the families in for cooking lessons and to eat together, but that all depends on what is happening in three or four months,” he says. “That being said, we’ve got capacity to serve more people, so please get in touch if you are in need and could do with a little help.”
Leslie argues that community action and a positive, collaborative effort is the right path forward, offering optimism in a time of deprivation.
“As a society, we like to point the finger, but I think it is better to focus on how we can help as individuals,” he says. “The government has a role to play, schools have a role to play, the community, friends and neighbours – we all have a role to play as well.
“It is important for us to recognise that there are a lot of people with great needs and there is a real opportunity here for us as members of communities to look after each other. The opportunity to make sacrifices, to share and to be generous with things that we have received in order to give others hope is really what this project is about.
“We are just trying to give them a lift, ensuring that they experience some neighbourly love.”
For more information, please visit www.wickhammarketchurch.org
Watch more episodes from the #EastTogether series at www.eastofengland.coop/easttogether