The Food Stop has been running at St Francis for 3 years and has grown steadily over that time. The Food Stop is a community shop that gives struggling families access to low-cost healthy food. Every week 35-40 members pay £3.50 for approximately £25 worth of food, which includes fresh, chilled and frozen as well as cupboard staples. In addition, members get to choose what they have (within reason) – just like a normal shop. We believe that gives dignity back to people. Even more, we are saving around 15 tons of food from being thrown in landfill every year. We are doing our bit to save the planet! We also offer second-hand clothes and toys for free.
The Food Stop is more than just food – it is a care led community group, where relationships are very important. We say that the treasure for us is not the numbers or the throughput, but the people and the conversations we have every week. Through openness, we have been able to support people in many different needs – from housing issues, domestic violence, immigration, bereavement – to name a few. But it’s not all one way. Members have become volunteers and work incredibly hard to make the Food Stop happen every week. Some members are suggesting new projects – for example to grow our own veg – something that we actively pursuing.
At Christmas we give every member a hamper with presents, food for a Christmas dinner, as well as treats and last year we delivered 63 hampers. In addition, we link our Food Stop with all our other activities – termly cooked meals, termly kids’ events for example, so we hope members feel part of our ‘family’.
The Food Stop has had a measurable spiritual impact too. We have been able to offer prayer to people and invite some to an Alpha course and discipleship group. Around ten members now attend church regularly and some have got involved in serving on a Sunday. No-one is pressured to come to church – they come because they want to, and we are so grateful for every single one.
We started the project in 2019 and it has grown strongly in the last couple of years with the pandemic and then the cost-of-living crisis. We were very fortunate to move into our new church hall in 2021 (the Light House), which everyone loves. We praise God that we were in a position to do it, and to bring his love to many different people over the last three years.