Meals for the neighbourhood
People who have lost income due to Covid are putting food on the table thanks to an award-winning project in Wolverhampton. Stephen Tomkins reports
Lea Road United Reformed Church in Wolverhampton has long history of looking out for local people in need. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the minister offered his church parlour as a warm place where unemployed people could meet and find support. In the 1960s, Age Concern and Mencap both launched support groups in the church. The church hosted a large youth club for young people of the Windrush generation, when other youth clubs in the city were excluding them. It has worked with refugees, and for the last ten years has run a drop in for the city’s Roma communities.
Now the church’s latest venture, Lea Road Community Food Project, has won an award recognising inspirational community initiatives. The project offers free food to residents of Penn Fields and Graiseley whose income has been reduced because of the pandemic.
It all started in June 2020 with the Big Lunch, an annual community meal (lockdown takeaway version). Stella Stewart, a church member, went to collect food for the event from FareShare, a charity which redistributes surplus food from manufacturers and supermarkets, supported by Marcus Rashford. The charity told Stella that new funding was providing them with 150kg of food a week.
‘We never want to turn down free things,’ says Stella, ‘so I thought about how we could use that. We started the food project just advertising on social media, asking if people needed a bit of support if they were struggling because of Covid. It went from there.’
Volunteers collect food every week from Fareshare, in Nechells, Birmingham, and from local donors such as Greggs and Aldi. More volunteers package the food in boxes for families, who come and collect them, or receive deliveries, on the Thursday evening…
Lea Road Community Food Project was awarded a prize of £2,000 in the United Reformed Church Community Project Awards 2021 – an initiative sponsored by Congregational and General Insurance plc. See other issues of Reform for reports on other winners. A video about each project is available online at www.youtube.com/URCUK
This is an extract from an article published in the October 2021 edition of Reform