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Junk Food? Felixstowe Churches Tackle Throwaway Society

Tuesday 29th November 2016

Junk Food? Felixstowe Churches Tackle Throwaway Society
Junk Food? Felixstowe Churches Tackle Throwaway Society

Bishop Mike today visited Felixstowe to see how the town’s Anglicans are making a difference in the community by holding a weekly “pop up” food shop in their church.

Perfectly edible food is donated to the pop-up in St Edmund’s Church by traders who would otherwise dump the produce they haven’t sold.

Every Tuesday, customers arrive at St Edmund’s, buy carrier bags for £1,and are invited to fill up to two bags with donated food.  Vicar of Felixstowe, the Revd Andrew Dotchin,says people queue for 45 minutes and as many as 60 bags can be sold in 20 minutes.

Now the “Business and Service in Christ – BASIC -  Life Community Pop-Up Shop” could be copied across the county – and a church in east London may also follow the trailblazing Suffolk model.

Although St Edmund’s has operated a Food Bank since early 2013 - receiving referrals from Social Services, Citizen’s Advice Bureau and other organisations - many people who needed food were evidently not using the service.

So the idea of providing a more attractively ‘shop-like’ service was born. The project was the brainchild of church treasurer Graham Denny and supermarkets, independent traders,and even allotment holders in Felixstowe have been persuaded to support this imaginative response to hard times.

Graham Denny says the BASIC charity has taken off in a spectacular way.

 "We now have supplies of fresh bread from a local baker, all manner of foods from our local Morrisons and fresh fruit and vegetables from local individuals.

"The project affords people dignity and choice. The Food Bank items are generally standard rather bland items designed to sustain a family for a few days in an emergency. The Pop-Up offers the customer the ability to choose items from a wide range which they enjoy -  and we still run the Food Bank."

The Revd Dotchin agrees that what makes the pop-up shop in the church so successful is the ethos of respect, community, and sharing for the common good.  

“This is incredibly important since it helps people on the edge of society who are in need but find it difficult to ask. They come in and shop, then stay and talk and so we are actually building a community”.

“What’s more, people are showing a genuine interest in the churches they’d not ordinarily visit and are asking questions about faith. We have already had one enquiry regarding a baptism and other serious interest in joining the church,” adds Graham Denny.

Visiting the shop, Bishop of Dunwich, the Rt Revd Dr Mike Harrison, said :

"In times of austerity, this fantastic initiative gives hard-pressed people and their families access to nutritious and varied food at a knock-down price of £1 per bag.

"It's great to see suppliers working with the Church of England to find a real use for this food, which which would otherwise be needlessly wasted. It’s yet another wonderful example of the Church at local level serving the community in concrete, popular, and creative ways."

There is also a spin-off for other community projects,with the £1 donations for a carrier bag of food going to other local causes.