Over the midsummer weekend some ten of Luton’s CofE churches joined with other churches around the town to collect food for Luton Foodbank (LFB). In all they collected 148 crates of food, nearly enough to cover 2 weeks demand from those struggling around the town.
Luton’s churches have been closely involved in the Foodbank since it started 7 years ago, alongside the towns Muslim community, other faiths, schools and businesses. However COVID19, panic buying and the lockdown have effectively knocked out in one blow its food gathering model: lots of people giving small amounts of food through lots of collection points.
Liz Stringer, chair of LFB: “Its been a very challenging time. In the early weeks of lockdown, supermarket shelves were empty, people stuck at home, many of our regular volunteers were unable to help as they were shielding, and the needs of people facing hunger doubled. It’s good we normally have about ten weeks supply in our warehouse because for a time early on our shelves were looking dangerously empty. Were it not for emergency grants enabling us to buy food in bulk we could have faced closure.”
Peter Adams, who is vice chair and who works to keep the towns churches closely involved with the Foodbank , commented on the weekend collection. “We’ve been pretty sure people still wanted to give. It was a case of creating a way for them to be confident they could do so safely. So we asked churches across the town to put together plans for socially distanced outdoor collections, get the word out to their members, work with the local community to see what they could do, and go for it.”
The result was nine collections running for 2-3 hours across the town. At Christ Church, Bushmead, which is right at the heart of that community, vicar Rev Tim Madeley and a team worked with the community centre and Co Op on Saturday afternoon. At St Luke’s in Leagrave, Rev Grace Sentamu Baverstock and curate Jess Maclaren joined with Christ Believers Fellowship who worship there and Leagrave Methodists to organise a drive by drop off. And at St Marys in the town centre the young people set up a gazebo in the churchyard opposite the Mall. At Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Bury Park a busy lunchtime saw 28 crates collected. The Gospel Pentecostal Church members and local Limbury community collected food there, as did St Peters in Dallow, St Christophers in Round Green and St Anne’s on Crawley Green Road. .
Everywhere there was a buzz as volunteers talked together face to face for the first time in three months! Several took the opportunity to open up the church for private prayer. All the while they were taking the opportunity to engage with passers by. In several places people said: “This is Church!”
“When can we do this again?” was a recurring question! Luton Foodbank won’t be saying No!