Approximately 6 years ago the Church was approached by a community worker for Derbyshire Public Health, who were promoting their commitment to healthy and affordable eating. This is when the Church first heard about FareShare Midlands.
Then, in 2016, the Church started its School for the Day food programme, which happens every half-term and school holiday. From that time, the Church has worked with FareShare Midlands to deliver good quality food to families at a reasonable price. As part of this scheme they run craft and holiday club activities at local schools, where breakfast and lunch are provided free of charge. The Church also make food parcels available for struggling families to take away at the end of those clubs.
Due to the nature of the Church and its funding, a wide range of children come to the Clubs. However, over the years, the staff and volunteers have built relationships with families and, through knowing the families, the team has come to know which individuals are in more need than others. So alongside the wider service, they also offer a discrete service to the more vulnerable, which includes a lot of families who are on income support and benefits.
“Surprisingly, a large proportion of our families in need constitutes those where the parents are working, but just miss out on qualifying to be on benefits. This means they end up having no financial support, when they do need it. Furthermore, if those families who just miss out on benefits struggled before April, that struggle has only been emphasised now. The cost of living crisis has just tipped those families into a worse situation. Now, some might get support – but others might still be missing out” says Rev Bachelard Kaze, Church Minister and lead on many of the food/FareShare projects.
One of the greatest benefits of FareShare Midlands is that it offers surplus food which is either free or very affordable. The Church run their clubs mostly with volunteers and have done so for many years, so their budget is always limited. Just having the food come in from FareShare Midlands, has really made a big difference.
Rev Kaze says “We would not be able to give people food parcels to take home if we had to shop ourselves. It makes a big financial difference in terms of enabling us to save money, which we can then spend elsewhere, for example on materials to give the children and improve the holiday experience.”
“One of the advantages/peculiarities of FareShare food is that you don’t know what is coming! And you get a variety of food; you get food items that you wouldn’t normally get or buy if you go shopping. So one of the things we think using FareShare Midlands has done, is it has got the children used to more different types of food, it has got them to try a few more things, to try different forms of sandwiches, snacks, vegetables, etc.”
Furthermore, the Church feel that the uncertainty in respect of what foods will arrive, has encouraged them to be creative and to offer different things. They hope that, when sending home strange-looking vegetables, it enables families and children to discover a wider variety of food – and potentially reduce waste.
The Church’s other involvement with FareShare Midlands was through the COVID 19 pandemic, when it provided a food bank. The Church stopped delivering that service toward the middle of 2021, as it appeared the situation was improving. The Church were no longer receiving calls from people requesting help from the food bank, and they felt they had done their job. Over the last few weeks, however, the Church has had calls from organisations wanting to assess them to run another food bank, which perhaps suggests that Social Services might be receiving more requests from people in need again.
Finally, Rev Kaze says “What we offer is more than food. We offer personal, pastoral support. We offer love, care and friendship. We offer community, relationships and we reduce isolation. As part of what we do, we involve parents who want to help out. If they haven’t worked for a long time, they often say we give them a sense of purpose, and the confidence to get back to work. We signpost people to certain services where they can get help. We feel that indirectly by giving the children a good holiday club experience it contributes to their education. Some of our clubs are based on particular values, so we hope that those will build the children up as a whole person.”