CAPTION: Volunteers pack food bags for delivery at a church hall in Plymouth

Churches work with Unicef to feed families in Plymouth

Posted: 18th December, 2020

Churches in Plymouth have been packing and delivering hundreds of food hampers as part of a £24,000 Unicef-funded project to support families in the city who don’t have enough to eat.

It’s part of Unicef’s first UK domestic emergency response in its 70-year history.

Over the last few weeks church buildings including St Pancras, St Marks and Plymstock Chapel have become food warehouses with volunteers packing bags of dried goods and tins alongside Christmas items, fresh fruit and vegetables.

The project is being co-ordinated by Transforming Plymouth Together (TPT).

“This is Plymouth, this is the UK, this is happening” Chris Forster, Transforming Plymouth Together

Speaking on BBC Radio Four, Chris Forster, who runs TPT, said of the Christmas food deliveries, “In some ways it makes me feel angry, but also very pleased that we are able to offer support.

“We had one family last week literally in tears of gratitude because their cupboard was bare.

“And this is Plymouth, this is the UK, this is happening”.

Hannah Fleming-Hill speaking on BBC Spotlight about the work Transforming Plymouth Together is doing

One mother-of-three who received a food parcel this week told BBC Radio “I would never see my children go without, so there have been days when I haven’t eaten at all.

“They are my priority and I want to make sure they have got enough.”

Coronavirus “most urgent crisis” affecting children since WW2

Another said “To not be able to feed your children is the worst thing ever, you feel like a failure as a parent.”

Transforming Plymouth Together is a joint venture between the Diocese of Exeter and the Church Urban fund to help churches tackle issues of poverty and inequality in Plymouth.

It’s in a partnership with a number of other Plymouth charities which have been given the grant by Unicef towards feeding 120 families and providing educational and relational support, including cooking lessons.

The food hampers include fresh fruit and vegetables as well as Christmas items

The Reverend Jennie Appleby is Plymouth City Dean and was one of the volunteers delivering hampers:

She said “Standing on the doorstep and handing over bags of food, I can see the look of relief on people’s faces as they realise they have sufficient food for the next few days.

“It feels like a small thing on our part but makes such a difference. It’s Mission and God’s love in action.

“So many churches have been involved and the response has been amazing. It’s great that some churches are working together ecumenically.

“We are so thankful for TPT, for their co-ordination of food and also their support.

“Our parish collected Christmas treats for families and we were overwhelmed by the generous donations.

Jennie said it would be good for the wider church community in Devon to “pray for families who are really struggling with so many needs at this time.”

“It’s important to reach out to those in need wherever you are,” she added.

Churches across Plymouth collected donations and packed bags

Unicef (the United Nations Childrens’ Agency) says the coronavirus pandemic is the most urgent crisis affecting children since the Second World War.

Even before the pandemic struck, an estimated 2.4 million UK children were already growing up in food insecure households.

Since March 2020, many families have faced even greater hardship.

Hannah Fleming-Hill, Project Support Development Worker, told BBC Spotlight: “I think what the pandemic has highlighted is that, no matter what your circumstances, you can be affected by it.

“Particularly people who may have been just coping and then the pandemic hit and they experienced job losses, a reduction in hours, no nurseries or childcare. Not able to visit family who would normally support them.

“We’ve seen more and more families come to us who we would not have seen prior to the pandemic.”

You can find out more about supporting the work of Transforming Plymouth Together here.