Church Wigan Food Ministry Feeding 570 People a Week

Church Wigan Food Ministry has seen a significant increase in numbers receiving support from their food ministry across Wigan. The Rev’d Rachel Sheehan, Associate Hub Leader of the Parish of Wigan North West spoke about the impact of Church Wigan Food Ministry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Across Church Wigan, we are providing over 200 hampers per week which are blessing over 570 individuals (these numbers fluctuate slightly from week to week, but this is the average per week).”

 “Since lockdown, numbers have rocketed for us in regards to food ministry and we are now in contact with families and individuals whom we were simply not aware of before the pandemic.”

Church Wigan Food Ministry primarily operates from St Barnabas Marsh Green where Outlet at St B’s takes place, and from St James with St Thomas Poolstock, where Tom’s Pantry takes place.

Rachel spoke about the increasing need in Wigan for support: “St Barnabas Marsh Green is situated in one of the most deprived areas of the Diocese. Most of our community struggle on a day to day basis with debt, food and fuel poverty.”

“Obviously once the pandemic hit people were furloughed, if not jobs completely cut, and schools were not initially getting the help they needed to offer support to some of the most vulnerable families in our community.” 

Rachel spoke about how the community of Churches and community organisations have come together in Wigan and are collectively involved in the food ministry:

“We have teams all across Wigan from different worshipping communities involved. We have also joined up during this pandemic with The Real Junk Food Wakefield, Fur Clemt Wigan, The Brick, and Wigan Council. We are much better together.” 

Through these partnerships, the project has been able to find a sustainable food source, reusing food that would otherwise have gone to landfill.

“Initially at the start of the pandemic, we tried to respond to a need which was to try to prevent food poverty, and to save food that was destined for landfill.”

Rachel shared the ministry’s bigger vision: “The bigger intention of sharing God’s love and hope to people across our town through feeding bellies (and subsequently people’s hearts and souls), not bins.”

The project is funded entirely from donations. As part of the Real Junk Food Project, therefore the project is run on a ‘Pay as you Feel’ basis and there is not a charge for food.

“People can pay with money but also with their time and skills. Any monetary donations we get in go towards running costs of getting the food in and storing it effectively and appropriately.”

The project developed and adapted to help as many people as possible during the lockdown.

“At the start of lockdown, we decided that we wanted the Outlet at St B’s (St Barnabas) and Tom’s Pantry at St James’ to be open more frequently and worked in correlation with each other, so that our communities could access food morning or afternoon. St Barnabas is open Monday to Saturday 2-4pm and Tom’s Pantry is open Monday to Friday 9:30am-11:30am.” 

The team also set up a delivery service for those unable to attend the outlet or pantry physically due to shielding or self-isolating. “Wigan Council deployed a number of staff to both sites, to aid in this and they have become a vital part of the wider Church Wigan Team.”

Despite the extra pressures on volunteers at the service with the increased numbers and the widening of their opening hours and additional delivery service Wigan Church Food Ministry found that as they were part of Church Wigan, they were able to recruit volunteers from across the deanery which has given those who have maybe been furloughed an opportunity to do something completely different and help in whatever way.

“Talking with the volunteers, they have been extremely humbled by the experience and have loved being part of a bigger team, doing ‘their bit’ to help during this pandemic. Also with joining up with other organisations, such as Fur Clemt, The Real Junk Food Project and Wigan Council, we have been able to gain even more invaluable support.”

You can find more information about the food support and get in touch with Church Wigan at www.transformingwigan.wordpress.com