Fighting food poverty by using plenty
Food Banks have become a familiar sight in the landscape of our country - many run by churches in this Diocese. Food poverty is a fact of life, alongside food waste. A different initiative that is attempting to deal with both issues is the community fridge network. Here Damon Rogers and Isaac Sibanda share their story of how this is impacting their neighbourhoods.
In March 2019 the first community fridge in Suffolk opened at Saint Andrews Church in Lowestoft. The fridge project came about through a partnership between Saint Andrews and Community Action Suffolk and has the support of the Hubbub and Neighbourly charities.
Essentially the aim of the community fridge is to reduce food waste going to land fill sites. In practice something different happens: we have found that all of the food that is donated to the community fridge is distributed to people who are living in food poverty.
It has been heart-breaking to hear some of the stories of people who have been sanctioned by the Universal Credit system, or who are working on limited-hour contracts and do not know from one week to the next whether they will have enough money to live on. Such people are our usual “customers” at the community fridge and we are often reminded of Jesus’ words, from Matthew’s Gospel, “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink.”
In the future we intend to develop what we do further by spending time to get to know the people who come to the community fridge and by building our relationships with them so that we can support them more and offer them prayer ministry as well.
The fridge was donated by Hughes Electrical and, that apart, everything we needed was purchased for less than £100. For any church that is thinking of setting up a community fridge we would say “go for it”, because what you will offer really can make a difference in people’s lives.
St Francis on the Heartsease estate in Norwich is a church that opens its doors to our community to share food faith and fellowship. We see the stark reality of food waste and aim to create an environment that is friendly, dignified, welcoming and filled with Christ’s love and laughter.
As a church we think it is important that we value God’s gifts, and this is food that would otherwise end up in the bin. It is for anyone and everyone to use. We think that helps to deal with the stigma that can sometimes surround needing help.
The Hive, a converted GP surgery next to the church, houses the fridge, and non-chilled goods fill more tables around the room. Many individuals who were once in need give back to by donating a few extra bits to be redistributed with the other goods.
Part of this work also comes from our “Healthy Hive Drop-in”, a place to share ideas about how to get more active, deal with stress, asking what is in our food and how we can eat more healthily. In our community of volunteers and helpers there are no experts, just neighbours wanting to look after their health and environment together.
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