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Tackling food poverty

by Michael Ford last modified 18 Jun, 2021 10:05 PM

For various reasons, poverty often stays hidden, in both urban and rural areas, and to tackle it most effectively requires team work.

Tackling food poverty

Enjoying local produce

In West Moors in Dorset, the school and church have formed a partnership with a local community trust to promote food education to local children, addressing food poverty alongside a new food-sharing initiative.

The Revd Andy Muckle says:

"Jesus said ‘the Kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground’ and this vision is one that is very important to both church and school in West Moors."

During the Covid-19 pandemic both Andy and Roy Sewell, Headteacher of St Mary’s CE First School, uncovered a deep level of food poverty and need in the town of West Moors.

Working in collaboration, they were able to help a number of families with food donations and financial support, thanks to the generosity of parishioners and the wider community.

Andy and Roy considered how the church and school together could sow seeds of hope in the community and start to tackle food poverty, as part of the church’s vision of 'Loving God Loving West Moors' and the school’s vision of 'Believing in Better'.

Tackling food poverty- Roy Sewell and pupils
Roy Sewell and pupils

Two initiatives have come out of this work.

The school and church have formed a partnership with Sturts Community Trust to promote food education to the local children and build a basis for addressing food poverty.

Sturts Community Trust is based close to the church and school, and brings together a range of social initiatives built around a vision of promoting sustainability.

Their base comprises a 90-acre working organic biodynamic farm together with a number of housing projects, on the site and also in the local community. For over 30 years, Sturts Farm has been offering land-based work opportunities, individualised support and supported living for adults with a learning disability.

In late May, the children of St Mary’s First School took part in a Rogationtide festival, beating the bounds of the school site, and stopping at the four points of the compass to pray and reflect on four C’s – Creation, Caring, Compassion and Celebration.

Afterwards, each child was treated to a box of food freshly prepared from produce grown at Sturts Farm, including homemade bread and salad.

Tim Woodward of Sturts is passionate about food education and reaching out and feeding the wider community. He says:

"It was such a joy to see the children making connections between the food in their hands and the generosity of God in creation!"

Tackling food poverty- Vicar Andy Muckle with pupils
Vicar Andy Muckle with pupils

Andy adds:

"The vision of this partnership is that each half-term we will celebrate a Christian festival with an underlying theme of food education, and that in time, this model could blossom and be rolled out to the other schools in West Moors and to the wider community."

Alongside this partnership, Andy and Roy have launched a ‘Sharing Shed’ outside the entrance to the school. The idea of the ‘Sharing Shed’, which came to them during one of their brain-storming sessions, is that it is a safe place where people can come and gift excess (non-perishable) food, but also more importantly take some away.

Andy says:

"One of the aspects of the food poverty in West Moors that has become more evident during the pandemic, is the understandable ‘embarrassment’ many people struggle with, in asking for help or food support.

"The ‘Sharing Shed’ is intended to be a true place of sharing where Christ’s love is shared with others, and hopefully the idea of sharing (giving when we have plenty, receiving when we don’t) will overcome some of the difficulties people face in going to a recognised foodbank.

"We hope and pray both initiatives will grow and flourish in the years to come as Jesus promises us, the seed we sow will grow and flourish."

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