Food bank and the Basket of Blessings by Emma Mahony

Unusually, my eye was drawn to the simple empty ‘basket of blessings’ in the
church door when I entered St Margaret’s after Lockdown, because I felt that
its image had spurred me on to action during the pandemic. With the church
and village hall closed, and with support from Mother Nicol (who was advising
the congregation to put extra food in the supermarket collection points at this
stage), I set about getting four food collection points set up around the
neighbouring villages. In Sharpthorne in our own Costcutter’s, where my son
was working we added the first, then premium organic fare at Plawhatch Farm,
followed by Horsted Keynes Store and the Fellows Barkery in Ardingly.
The response and the generosity of the villages were immediately
overwhelming, and around Easter we were having to re-empty the baskets daily
to make space for all the food. If there had been hoarding in the early days,
people were now giving back all that extra food, and buying some more pasta
and sauce on top.
As I began to take the boxes to the central Emergency Food Hub in Haywards
Heath Town Hall, an additional centre to the Trussell Trust food banks
because they were struggling to manage double their capacity during the
pandemic, I noticed how basic the ingredients were that were being sent out.
With a little help from the fellow foodbank volunteer Lucinda Meagher, a
former employee of the IMPACT foundation, a charity based in Haywards
Heath, and Fiona Rocks in Ardingly, we set about getting funds to add
something extra to these basic boxes.
Within weeks, we were sending out healthy recipes using donations and
additional fresh food, such as eggs and cheese, for families. Before long we had
32 recipe bags going out to 32 families of four or more weekly.
The feedback has been really positive, with many families reporting doing more
cooking together, and asking for outdoor cooking sessions in the summer.
That call to Mother Nicol has resulted in over 1,000 meals going out in the
local area, supported by the generosity of the parish.

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