Week 1: St Matthew, Redhill – ‘Nothing had prepared me to hear the stories of food banks in our local areas’

The Revd Canon Wendy S Robins writes…

This first week of the Bishop’s Lent Call we are focusing on the work of St Matthew, Redhill, which established its food bank eight years ago. In the video below, The Revd Canon Andrew Cunnington, who is Vicar of St Matthew, shows us around the food bank at the Church. What surprised me, and I say this having put together the project sheet about St Matthew’s, is that it is so big.

In the material about the food bank, we learn that it started in two cupboards at the back of the church where the food was stored. Indeed, Andrew even shows us the cupboards in the video! Now, the food lies in piles ready to pack all around the church. I have to say I am not at all clear what happens when the people who worship at St Matthew’s can go back into the church for worship because, at present, there is nowhere for them to sit! But then we go outside and we see the Portakabins and the shed in which all the food is stored. I gasped the first and the second time that I saw this video. I guess this blog was a bit in need of a ‘spoiler alert’ and I hope that it will not put you off watching as there is so much to see and to learn and it is a real insight into the work of the volunteers at St Matthew’s and the complexity of the organisation.

When the Bishops of the Diocese first suggested that we should look at food insecurity, both here in our own Diocese and in our Link Dioceses, I had heard about the campaign by Marcus Rashford to enable schoolchildren to be fed during school holidays. But nothing had really prepared me to hear the stories of food banks in our local areas and the needs that they are meeting.

It saddens me to think that in this comparatively rich country, and in what is considered to be the affluent south-east of England, so many people have been forced into needing the support of food banks at this time. It is brilliant that places like St Matthew’s (and the food banks at Horley and Merstham and Gatton, with which they co-ordinate, as well as other food banks in the Croydon and Reigate areas) are doing the work that they are, but it is so sad that they need to do so. When the food bank started at St Matthew’s they used to feed between 10 and 20 families a week; now it is hundreds.

During this coming week, please think and pray about families in the Croydon Episcopal Area who have been forced into food insecurity by the ongoing effects of the pandemic. Think about what you might be able to do to help. Might you be able to donate a can or two of whatever is needed to your local food bank or volunteer at it? Might you be able to give something to the Bishop’s Lent Call to help all our projects? Whatever you feel you can do, please pray for God’s justice and equality for all, and remember all those who are helped by the Bishop’s Lent Call projects this year, that they might not have to worry about where their food will come from in the future. Thank you.

A prayer for use with the Lent Call material:

Creator God,
we give thanks for all that you have given to us.
We pray for those who are experiencing food insecurity.
in the places featured in the Lent Call and elsewhere.
Help us to show compassion for them.
Give us the will to work with others to help to bring about change.
Help us to show our care and concern for those around us who are in need.
Bring justice and fullness of life to all your people.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.

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