In the centre of Loughborough is a building bustling with activity, full of people going out of their way to support the community. It’s home to King’s Church and its charitable trust, a nursery, the Schofield Family Centre, and a huge range of other local services.
What began as the King’s Church ‘Opportunity’ scheme, where church-goers provided tins to help families in crisis, has grown in scale. Since the pandemic, food provision has become a key service within the building’s walls. The Schofield Family Centre has delivered food into communities throughout the crisis and recently opened the pantry called ‘the cupboard on the corner’.
Feeling the pinch
Karen Long, the Centre’s family outreach worker who led on expanding the food services, said: “People are feeling the pinch. We started off helping 4 families with food in summer 2020, when Marcus Rashford drew attention to how broad the issue was. A couple of schools contacted us and forwarded our contact details on to families that could benefit.”
When we spoke to her recently, Karen explained that the families they work with were struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living: “The Pantry has grown a lot in the past few months. We started in June with 10 families and it’s now at 135 families. The rising cost of food, fuel, loss of income, it’s meant that people are continuing to really need support. We’ve way outstripped where we thought we’d be, but FareShare is helping us keep up.”
“We get referrals from the nursery and local schools and support single parents from the playgroup. Older people living alone are coming too. People have cried when they come in. It’s relief. They are very grateful for what we do.”
School holidays can be a particularly challenging time, but Karen’s team is there to help with food from FareShare: “Over the school holidays, families get in touch trying to find extra food. There’s a greater need and parents are anxious. We’re also running a free club at the moment for children. It includes a picnic meal or holiday bag, so at least one day a week they know they’ll be fed.”
“People can’t believe this food would have been wasted.”
The variety of fresh and ambient food that FareShare supplies means that Pantry users get more choice than at a traditional food bank. “People donate £3.50 to use the pantry but get about £15 worth of food. It’s a lot more empowering to come in and choose what they want.”
Karen adds: “Some of the people using the pantry can’t believe that this food would have been wasted. We’ve had punnets of strawberries from FareShare that have gone down really well. There’s been more socialising since we opened the pantry too. People are asking what they can make or offering tips for creating things with the produce available, things like mushroom soup. We’ve started recipe cards to help.”
As Karen points out, the impact of the food they provide goes beyond meals: “The transformation you see in people can be extraordinary. They get a bag of food and maybe some toothpaste, and the next time you see them they have hope. Once they have that they can start feeling connected again and building relationships. It’s never just the food, it’s a way of making that connection.”