Foodbanks during Covid-19: Reflections from the Front…Part 2
Rev Alice Whalley, priest of a church in Finsbury Park, reflects on what lockdown has meant for her parish with the sudden rise in “food poverty”
On Mothering Sunday, when the implications of lockdown started to feel a bit more real, I began to imagine a plan of how I might spend my time over the coming weeks.
Here were my ideas:
• Deliver weekly prayer packs to members of the congregation.
• Paint the church’s external woodwork.
• Continue with the Lent course online, and then turn it into an Easter one.
• Preach every Sunday and put it online.
• Take on the church’s gardening project, and have the garden looking fabulous and full of fruit and veg for the soup kitchen.
• And, most importantly, carry on with the soup kitchen, unless it was literally illegal to.
This all went very wrong, and only one of those things has happened.
Slowly, the doorbell started going more and more. “Can you spare a few tins?”, “Have you got any coffee?”, “Can you make me some noodles?”
I discovered that more and more places where people were getting food regularly were closing or reducing their service, and by Holy Week, I was starting to discover people who hadn’t eaten for several days. So I asked the regulars what would be helpful.
A month later, we’ve given out 288 food parcels and the new St John’s Food Bank is open three days a week, with us serving hot food during two of those sessions.
Through a member of the congregation, we’ve been able to receive donations directly from Morrisons, but the local community have also donated incredibly generously, both in terms of food and in financial donations. We are living a little hand to mouth though – a busy session can almost wipe out our stock, and the call out for donations begins again.
So now, over the coming weeks, I think I might:
• Find a regular supplier of long-life milk, because even if you have 8 million bottles in stock, it never seems to be enough.
• Find a way of safely giving guests access to a computer and the internet. Internet poverty, especially when access to so many things is online, is becoming a real issue.
• Try and partner with more local businesses who can donate regularly, so that we’re not always panicking about not having enough.
• Share the news of what we’ve been doing with our congregation – it’s their ministry after all, even if they’re not there in person.
• Give myself a break about not doing anywhere near enough on the online worship.
• I do really need to paint the woodwork though…