CAPTION: Volunteers are using St Andrews Church Hall in Ashburton to pack up bags of food to be delievered

Swapping people in pews for parcels of food

Posted: 7th May, 2020

A number of Devon churches have become busy hubs despite being closed for public worship after stepping-up to host foodbanks.

St Luke’s, Buckfastleigh, began housing the existing foodbank after the town hall and school were closed in line with the Government’s coronavirus guidance.

It is now providing a storage facility, space for packing and a distribution base inside the church itself.

The Team Rector, Tom Benson, said “If not us then who?”

Churchwarden Dr Ian Totterdell has been helping with St Thomas Community Larder

Since mid-March, he and the rest of the clergy team have led recruitment, training and management of 205 volunteers.

They have also been liaising with GPs, councils, schools and other partners.

In their first month the new team responded to 298 helpline calls, delivered 162 medication prescriptions, 65 food parcels for 177 people, 18 sets of hearing aid batteries, and “countless” books and craft packs.

The curate, Laura McAdam, is a former Christian Aid South West Co-ordinator, which means she has helpful experience setting up new operations.

The Trussell Trust, the umbrella organisation for many foodbanks, also helped with the set-up.

Down the road in Ashburton, the church hall at St Andrew’s Church is now hosting the town’s expanded foodbank and has been working closely with the team in Buckfastleigh.

The town’s Covid-19 response team, which includes a number of people from the church,  now has 250 volunteers.

They also run a helpline, pick up shopping and make phone contact. Volunteer drivers are also taking people to health appointments and taking health and care workers to work in the town’s coronavirus black cab.

The Team Rector, Mark Rylands, said: “In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says that when we tend to those in need of any kind, we are tending to him.

“He strongly identifies himself with the poor and those in trouble.

A team from Buckfastleigh church are helping co-ordinate community food deliveries

“It seems only right that at this time the Church family of St Andrews should give up its hall to become the hub for the foodbank.

“We want to serve Him and the people of the community, to love one another as God has loved us.”

In Exeter, there is the new St Thomas Community Larder, a collaboration of the Riverside church and Anglican, Methodist, Baptist churches in the St Thomas area of Exeter.

It has been launched to meet the needs of people who were previously ‘just managing’ but are now unemployed or on reduced, furlough, income.

It is using different church buildings and congregations for collection, distribution, and to run the helpline.

A real Gospel response

The vicar of St Thomas’ Church, David Nixon, says he is delighted by positive partnerships with local GPs, schools and councillors who are referring people to the larder and promoting it.

He says local shops are also helping by facilitating bulk buying from cash donations and local bike couriers are doing free deliveries.

“I’m delighted to be involved in this shared project across the St Thomas churches.

“I think we’re trying to answer some real local need, as well as picking up on the generosity of those who give us food to distribute.

“There’s something quite scriptural in knowing that we’re getting back more than we’re giving out, so it’s a real Gospel response.”

You can find out more about foodbanks in Devon, how get help yourself and how to set one up here.

There is also useful information about other community support initiatives here.