St Peter’s Church is a distribution centre for the Leeds South and East Foodbank.
In his first ever New Year message, broadcast on BBC1 and BBC2, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, challenged people to be like the late Nelson Mandela and help to change the world around them. “Nelson Mandela said that dealing with poverty is not an act of charity; it’s an act of justice,” he told viewers. He spoke as he visited a Church Urban Fund project for people suffering hardship. He also said that the church would continue to talk about poverty and other social issues, because they were part of its duty to promote Christian values. The Archbishop said, “I want to suggest this year that each of us makes a resolution to try and change the world a bit where we are.”
The Leeds South and East Foodbank operates under Christian Charity, the Trussell Trust. The organisation’s mission statement reads: “The Trussell Trust works to empower local communities to combat poverty and exclusion in the UK and Bulgaria. We work with the people that society forgets, providing practical help through sustainable projects and by enabling each person to realise that they are valued. Our vision is to build communities where people of all backgrounds are included and have the opportunity to live in dignity with hope for the future.”
A spokesperson for the Trust said, “13 million people live below the poverty line in the UK. Every day people in the UK go hungry for reasons ranging from redundancy to receiving an unexpected bill on a low income. Foodbanks provide a minimum of three days emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis in the UK. In 2012-13 foodbanks fed 346,992 people nationwide. Of those helped, 126,889 were children. Rising costs of food and fuel combined with static income, high unemployment and changes to benefits are causing more and more people to come to foodbanks for help.
The Trussell Trust partners with churches and communities to open new foodbanks nationwide. With almost 400 foodbanks currently launched, our goal is for every town to have one.”
A storage facility has been established in the Church, which is staffed by a team of volunteers, and became one of the Leeds South and East Foodbank distribution centres in 2014. Volunteer Margaret Smith said, “There is a distribution centre open every day of the week somewhere in South Leeds and the St Peter’s centre is open on a Tuesday. We distribute emergency food to those who are referred to us and have the required voucher, issued by authorised agencies. Members of the congregation donate items and over the Christmas period we used these supplies in emergency parcels for families across the area.”
Volunteers from St Peter’s were amongst those who collected over 3.4 tonnes of food donated by customers shopping in Morley ASDA recently. Shoppers were given a list of essential items from which they could choose as they entered the store and donated them as they finished their shopping.
A large storage cupboard in the Church has been converted into a collection point by volunteers. Shelving has been installed so that donations can be stored and parcels made up and housed prior to collection. The initiative came at a time when the PCC had to make a decision on how to allocate funding made available through Wakefield Diocese. As part of an outreach opportunity, the PCC unanimously agreed to use the Bishop’s £100 to invest in the shelving required to accommodate the food boxes.
The Bishop of Pontefract and Suffragan Bishop of Wakefield, the Right Reverend Tony Robinson welcomed the fresh injection of funds for grassroots projects. “This initiative speaks right to the heart of our faith and what it is to love our neighbour,” he said. “Many people in our diocese are struggling with the effects of the present financial situation and the swathing cuts in benefits and public services. I hope this will be a small contribution to community action at a local level.”