Church Life in Lockdown: How the community around St Luke’s in Buckfastleigh delivered in the pandemic
Since the pandemic started, a number of churches across Devon have been running foodbanks and delivering food and other essential items to people who have needed help.
Janet McLellan from St Luke’s church, Buckfastleigh, gives a snapshot of what the past year has been like there.
In March 2020, St Luke’s held its weekly Food Bank morning as usual, with families and individuals popping in for a chat and a coffee while getting a top-up of groceries.
However, it was clear that with the pandemic rapidly getting more serious, something more would be needed.
During the following ten days systems were put in place to offer a five-day-a-week delivery service as part of a wider town response. The remit of the food bank was broadened to support anyone unable to get to the shops, facing furlough or redundancy, exhausted NHS workers and carers, or those who were self-isolating.
As the country locked down, St Luke’s was ready.
From that time onwards the local community has donated a steady stream of food and money to increase the capacity of the Food Bank.
Volunteers were recruited and trained to co-ordinate and deliver food alongside the wider town COVID-19 response, which offered prescription pick-ups, check- in calls and general troubleshooting support to anyone needing help adapting to this strange locked-down world.
St Luke’s, which is a modern building in the heart of the town, became the centre of the community response and acted for a while as a warehouse for food supplies.
Rev’d Tom Benson, the Team Rector and Chair of Buckfastleigh Food Bank, and his Curate, Rev’d Laura McAdam, were kept busy creating new infrastructures, training volunteers and being a reassuring presence to those who dropped by or called-up.
Over the past year the Food Bank volunteers have stocked, logged and delivered 864 food parcels full of cupboard staples and fresh goods donated by individuals and local businesses.
The team covers an area from Ashburton to South Brent, Dartington and into Dartmoor.
Around 2500 people have received nearly 13,000 meals.
The Rev’d Tom Benson said, “This has been a time which has affected every community and our experience is that every community has stepped up to help their neighbours when called upon.
“Our volunteers, backers and supporters have made great things possible without seeking personal glory, we owe them a huge debt of thanks.”
The money donated has enabled the Food Bank to cater for many different diets, respond quickly to need and to build a warehouse that at its peak functioned at eight times the capacity of pre-COVID times.
A year on, the systems are tried and tested, the volunteers continue to be tirelessly committed and there is now a mixed economy of collection and delivery available.
St Luke’s remains a vital point of support for many in this community, offering far more than emergency food.
The clergy and volunteers stand with those in crisis and support families with long term planning to move into a more stable situation.
This year has left the vulnerable even more so, worn out even the strongest and tried the patience of us all.
But with the community spirit and determination seen by all involved in Buckfastleigh’s response to the pandemic, St Luke’s remains in a strong position to help all those looking for help.