Kirk launches community meals to help those in need

A church has scrapped its emergency food bank in favour of twice monthly 'community meals', saying it believes that 'helping people build relationships in the community is better than giving handouts'.

Locals enjoyed the first community meal at Castlemilk Parish Church

The new Church of Scotland Church at Castlemilk will hold the meals - open to everyone in the community, not just those living in poverty - on the first and third Fridays of every month. People will be asked to donate what they can to the meal, with those living in extreme poverty not expected to contribute.

The community meals are modelled on the Table Grace Café movement which are popular in the United States. The kirk added that other food banks continue to operate in the Castlemilk area.

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Minister Reverend Sarah Brown said: ““We were providing an emergency Food Bank for essential overnight supplies at our old church, but we’ve suspended that because we think helping people build relationships in the community is better than giving handouts. We want to restore people’s dignity and see them leaving full after a good meal, rather than eating until the bag is empty.”

She added: “I really believe in a hand up, rather than a hand out. Most of the supplies from foodbanks are tinned goods and I know if you’re struggling to afford to buy food, then heating it up is also an issue. We’re working in partnership with foodbanks in the area. I think the meals will grow through word of mouth because it takes a personal connection to bring people along rather than posters or leaflets.”

The church has funded the new project through a £30,000 Scottish Government grant from its Fair Food Transformation Fund.

Peter Kelly, director of The Poverty Alliance said: “Foodbanks have become the clearest sign of our failure to provide a decent income for everyone who needs it. Volunteers across the country have been stepping up to help those in crisis, those who have been failed by a social security system that have borne the brunt of cuts as a result of austerity. The work that these volunteers have been doing has been critical in providing an emergency response to real need, but it is clear that we need a longer term, more sustainable response.

He added: “Foodbanks will be around for some time to come, providing important help to those who really need it. But we need to start developing alternatives now before foodbanks are seen as a normal part of our social security system. Community based initiatives like this one should be welcomed whilst we redouble our efforts to fix our social security system.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have been very clear we want to eradicate the need for food banks in Scotland. Our £1 million a year Fair Food Fund – designed in consultation with the sector – supports community-based responses that help reduce reliance on emergency food provision.

“The fund supports more dignified responses to food poverty, supporting projects that are transitioning away from emergency food aid as the main response. Some of the people we worked with on the fund had themselves used foodbanks and it was agreed we have to work together over the long-term to tackle the causes of food poverty. Community meals are one of a number of ways to do this, but they are not the sole focus of the fund.”