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Delivering food to the most vulnerable 

A Baptist church in Purley, Croydon has accelerated plans to work alongside the council and FareShare in ensuring the most vulnerable in its community have access to food. Pastor Nick Graves explains more  

Old Lodge1We are a small church in Purley, South Croydon.  For the last (almost) five years we have been running an 'alternative' fortnightly church gathering called Thursday Tea.  This is a community meal that has three values 'Eat Pray Love' and has attracted a large group of people from our community including those of some faith, those of no faith and also those of other faiths!  This has allowed us to have a really big impact in our community because we know so many people in it.

Our work in the community has also attracted the attention of the Croydon Council.  Late last year, the director of the council's gateway services came to see me and asked if we would be involved in a pilot scheme called 'the one stop food shop'.  This scheme involves partnering with the council and FareShare food charity to open a shop in the church where people will be invited to visit and purchase £20 worth of fresh, chilled, frozen and packet/tinned food that would otherwise be sent to landfill by the manufacturers for only £3.50.  All the food is perfectly edible but cannot be sold by supermarkets for a variety of reasons. The council would then send frontline officers from a number of departments to work at the church a couple of days a week so that they can interact face to face with clients who come into the shop to buy food with the aim of helping them to sort out benefits, tenancy issues, training or employment.

Old Lodge3We had planned to start this project in June, and take our time to find the right manager and volunteers to make this happen.  However Covid-19 happened and we felt that God was asking us to pull the project forward to get food out to people during this emergency.  Within a week of taking this step of faith, we found the person to manage the project and were swamped with volunteers from the local community all wanting to help.  As we want to observe safe distancing during this pandemic we decided to mostly deliver to people in their own homes. In our first week 10 volunteers delivered 30 food parcels to some of the most vulnerable people in our community. We expect that number to rise over the coming weeks as the local council will also be actively referring this coming week too.

It's been an amazing way of interacting with our community over a very difficult period of time and showing God's love in an immensely practical way. I have lost count of the times that I have been asked why we are doing this and it has been a joy to have that conversation with people (especially over Easter).

On going, we are looking forward to continuing the project in a more normal way once lock down is relaxed.  We will use the opportunity to meet new people via the shop and then invite them to Thursday Tea and also the missional community that runs along side it and look forward to see what God does in and through this project. 

Nick Graves is the pastor of Old Lodge Lane Baptist Church in Purley

Baptist Times, 17/04/2020
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