Urgent request for support from churches

This is a challenging time for us all, and across the country food banks are working hard to maintain the provision of emergency food to those in crisis.

At the Trussell Trust, we are committed to working towards an end to the need for food banks in the UK, but as things stand food banks are providing an essential service for people who have nowhere else to turn for support. We are doing all we can to ensure that they continue to do so at this time.

Churches throughout the UK play a crucial role in the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network, and we are hugely grateful for the generous support they provide – providing venues, volunteers, food, and financial donations that make this vital work possible. We celebrate the way in which Christians from different churches come together with people of all faiths and none to make a difference in their communities through food banks.

We know that, like us, churches will be concerned to protect the health of their communities by taking steps to reduce the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). At the same time, we know they will share our belief that those who have the least resources to cope with this crisis must not be forgotten at this time.

The latest government advice explains food banks can legally continue operating and buildings that host food banks – including churches – can continue to open for those sessions, provided we follow social distancing rules, because your work qualifies you as key workers ‘caring for the vulnerable’. You can read more about the steps we are supporting food banks to take here.

Challenges

Some of the specific challenges we face as a result of the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) are:

  • A significant proportion of our 28,000+ volunteers are older people, many of whom are now not able to volunteer because they are in higher risk groups.
  • Many of the people who need to use the food banks in our network have health issues and so may be needing to self-isolate or comply most strictly with social distancing guidelines.
  • Maintaining food stocks at a time when many people are going out less or are more urgently focused on providing for their own households.
  • Potential for increased demand where workers are being laid off or shifts reduced due to impact on businesses.

Ways to help

We’re asking for additional urgent help from churches – along with other partners – as we respond to these challenges, including:

  • Volunteering: We urgently need people – especially of working age – to give time to keep our food banks running. This could include sorting donations, packing boxes in the warehouse, or making deliveries to people’s doorsteps by car. We make this appeal particularly to churches with younger congregations, who may have members who find themselves more available to volunteer during the week than usual. In order to coordinate volunteering offers, we have also set up an online portal where people can register to help here.
  • Food supplies: Some food banks are already facing shortages, and others will begin to run low as social distancing measures take effect. Please encourage people in your congregation and wider community to continue donating non-perishable food and money to food banks at this time and over the coming months. Before donating, please check your local food bank’s website and social media channels to see what supplies they are currently in need of.
  • Transport: We want to be able to deliver food to the doorstep for people experiencing poverty who are self-isolating at home and in need of support from a food bank. This is not a service we usually offer, so we need volunteer drivers and assistants to make this possible.
  • Church buildings: The majority of our food bank distribution centres are based in local churches. It is vitally important that these buildings remain open for food banks to use so that emergency food provision can continue even though gathered worship services will not be taking place. If your church building is a food bank venue, please make every effort to keep it available to the food bank. Food banks are introducing social distancing practices and in some cases doorstep deliveries.
  • Prayer: We know there are many people who want to help practically but cannot because they are rightly taking measures to protect themselves and other people. If people would like to get involved in a different way by praying, we would really welcome that. Some suggested prayer points are outlined below.

Churches that are not already connected with a local food bank can find their nearest Trussell Trust food bank here. Following the links to individual food bank websites and social media will provide more information about specific local needs.

Policy

There are also steps the government can take to protect those who are particularly financially vulnerable at this time. You may wish to join us in urging the government to:

  1. End the five week wait for the first Universal Credit payment, or change the loan currently offered for this period to a grant, enabling people to access funds from the benefits system as soon as they need them, without fear of being unable to repay debts.
  2. Increase child benefit payments immediately to allow parents to cover the additional cost of food (especially for those receiving free school meals) and childcare resulting from school closures.
  3. Ensure that people are able to access local crisis grants easily and promptly should they find themselves in a crisis, enabling them to purchase their own food and essentials.

Prayer

Our Trussell Trust team, like the dedicated teams of staff and volunteers who make food banks happen across the country, is made up of people from a variety of faith and non-faith backgrounds. For lots of food bank staff and volunteers, prayer is an important way of seeking guidance, being resourced for action, and bringing about change. If you would like to pray or lead others in prayer in support of our work at this time, some pointers for prayer – in addition to the topics above – could include:

  1. Many people who need to use food banks have exhausted support from family and friends and have nowhere else to turn. Pray for those who are isolated and afraid, that they would experience comfort and connection and be able toa ccess the material provision they need.
  2. Food banks will be adapting to different ways of working in order to operate safely and will be welcoming new volunteers at this time. Pray for strength, wisdom, and health for volunteers and staff providing food banks and other essential services in our communities.
  3. Leaders of all kinds are making difficult decisions in a fast-changing environment about how to protect and provide for people, including regarding food and money. Pray for clarity and insight for government, business, church, charity, and statutory sector leaders as they navigate these decisions together.

Thank you in advance for standing with us. We really appreciate your support.