Church Food Hub Highly Commended in parliament awards
A North Camden Food Hub was highly commended by parliament last week, in recognition of its work to tackle food poverty.
The hub, originally set up by St Cuthbert’s West Hampstead was nominated by local MP, Tulip Siddiq who presented the award in person, having witnessed a rapid expansion in the last year.
Over the last two years, the church has worked with the charity FoodCycle to create cooked meals every Saturday from produce at its sell-by date, which are serviced at a Saturday Community lunch for up to 60 people. This created a sense of community for the marginalised and those on the poverty line. But this had to change with the onset of the pandemic in spring last year.
At the time the church had a sudden rush of interest from newly-created mutual aid groups, where people joined messaging apps to help neighbours in need. By joining the dots, the Revd Hugh Thomas used contacts from non-church backgrounds in the mutual aid movement to create food parcels for people who were unable to feed themselves.
Commenting on the formation of the project, Thomas said:
“What has been amazing is how the young people have come forward to help the community delivering bags to the elderly. The elderly have, in return, witnessed how young people are helping the older people, which might go against the media portrayal of how many young people behave.”
In July 2020, when the church reopened its worship space, it meant the food bank operations had to move to the local Sidings Community Centre. Last summer the hub gave out 110 bags, and now the demand is so great, they are giving away 150 bags. Thomas explains, that for some people in nearby sheltered accommodation, it was the first time they have opened their doors in months, and it brings a stronger sense of connection. Today, about half of the recipients collect their FoodHub bags, and then still also collect cooked food from FoodCycle, with the two projects running simultaneously.
Thomas highlights that the need is so great that many who rent, and may lose 20 per cent of pay on furlough, either miss their rent or stop feeding themselves. He also noted that everyone is two or three bad decisions away from the streets, meaning we are all in this together. He believes that the project is a community hub, highlighting it is for the community and not just for the poor.
While the initiative is not religious, it is producing important pastoral interactions, and he adds:
“I realised that we need to seize the day and be front and centre of everything. People expect the church to take the lead, so I was able to kick things off, and as Priests, we should be a facilitator for the gifts of others.”
“I have powerful conversations with volunteers of all faiths and none, and with the recipients. It has been great for outreach to people who would not have come to the church. This had been one the highlights of my ministry, with the Holy Spirit guiding me and this project.”
To find out more about the West Hampstead Food Hub see their website, or you can discover more about the nationwide FoodCycle and the Kilburn Cook and Collect project here.