A Letter from the Rev Catherine Shelley
St Edward’s Church, Mottingham - Foodbank
Many churches have been running or supporting foodbanks both before and during the pandemic. The ways that foodbanks have grown during the various lockdowns has been both concerning and eye-opening because of the levels of need revealed.
When the March 2020 lockdown began, St Edward’s Mottingham was supporting around 10-20 families per week from a total pool of around 50 households. As lockdown hit and numbers seeking help began to rise, we wondered how long our supplies, mostly donated over the previous harvest and Christmas tide, would last. We decided to keep going and then apologise and refer people to the Trussell Trust foodbank in Bromley when our supplies ran out. We are still going! and the story of Elijah’s visit to the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8) comes to mind; every time we think that supplies will run out a donation arrives. Supplies have grown instead of drying up. In addition to the kind gifts from our close neighbours, we now receive grants from the London Community Fund, City Bridge Trust, Chislehurst Rotary and National Lottery, to fund food supplies, volunteer costs, shelving and recently, a foodbank administrator.
Another extraordinary development has been the growth of partnerships with other churches. Through an umbrella body called Transforming Bromley Borough, we are now part of a 12 strong, church-based foodbank network, with Trussell Trust and other independent providers, which has been a great support. The network also has sufficient volume to access Fareshare deliveries, as well as working ecumenically and across Diocesan boundaries with Rochester Diocese.
Stronger ties have also grown up within Eltham and Mottingham Deanery with the foodbank receiving support from St John’s Eltham, St Andrew’s and St Albans in the south of the Deanery. In addition, we have received many contributions from St Augustine’s, Grove Park in our neighbouring Deanery.
Support coalesced around the Christmas Hamper campaign which began with parents from a local school wanting to help families less fortunate than themselves. All those neighbouring churches, and many in the community including a local business network (BN1 Keane) and the Glebe football club, came on board like never before, flooding us with donations of money, food and children’s presents. Over 30 volunteers gathered from St Edward’s, St Andrew’s and St Alban’s and the local community packed bags and hampers and delivered them to families. In the end over 450 hampers and bags of presents were delivered.
During the Saturday afternoon, whilst we were still packing, the Prime Minister announced that London was going into Tier 4. The presents and parcels that we were packing became even more necessary for many families who had planned to spend Christmas away with family and now had to stay at home. Much of the feedback from recipients referred to the hampers as a lifesaver. We also ended up, over the following days, collecting excess turkey from families who now had too much, to deliver to families who had nothing for Christmas dinner. It has been an awful year in many ways but events that have happened around the foodbank have bought the Bible alive in ways that many of us have not seen so clearly before. To quote U.A. Fanthorpe’s poem, Not the Millenium, “Be realistic says heaven, expect a miracle”.
Thank you so much for your continued support. May this miracle continue.
A few of the many grateful thanks messages received:
Danielle (aged 15) (Oldest child of 4) -Thank you… it’s really lovely to have some presents; we don’t usually have any as mum can’t afford very much
Melinda - Thank you so much, you have saved our lives; we were supposed to go to family in Suffolk but can’t travel now. We had no money left for Christmas dinner, thinking we would be away.
But you have saved our Christmas with all the food.
Sarah-Jayne - Thank you so much it’s appreciated. My son who has autism is so happy with his toy and my little girl said ‘when we go out I want to go to the church today’, Thank you. Xx you honestly don’t know what this means to us as we have no familyX
Bill - Hi Catherine, it’s Bill here thank you ever so much for the food hamper I am so happy with it.