Helping feed the most vulnerable in society is a vital way churches can work together in mission
Today in 21st century England, we know that possibly 10% of the population are living in food insecurity, and the coronavirus pandemic has led to even more people experiencing hunger. The University of Coventry has undertaken research and produced free resources on the austerity timeline, which shows the impact of child benefit freezes, the household benefit cap and the introduction of universal credit on the poorest.
The mission of God (missio Dei) is about helping to bring relief from suffering. The Old Testament idea of Shalom (‘peace’) was connected with harmony, wholeness and completeness. That idea for the Jewish people was connected with eating the good crops of the land and living in secure and safe housing.
Churches collaborating together in ecumenical mission around issues of food has an enormous opportunity to bless the most vulnerable in society. A great story comes from Kent where Churches Together in relationship with Church Action on Poverty in creating Food Pantries that help people save money.
Churches looking to work together to tackle food poverty in a certain part of their town or village may find resources from the Trussell Trust (a nationwide network of food banks) are a good starting point. The Church Urban Fund has also produced a downloadable PDF entitled Hungry For More: How churches can address the root causes of food poverty.
An important major study from Coventry University entitled Life on the Breadline has an excellent anti-poverty charter as well as a number of excellent resources.
Stories of hope
“All across Plymouth this summer, churches are coming together to offer free meals to children and families in their community. Sixteen churches have united to host the Feast of Fun, sharing their resources, volunteers and buildings to offer food and fun activities to families.” Read more about how churches in Plymouth have been helping to feed children in their community in our web story.
Southport Foodbank was founded in May 2013, and forms part of the Compassion Acts charity. Their mission is to bring churches and other local organisations, businesses and groups together to act as good neighbours, supporting others in crisis and challenging poverty at its root – working towards a future where everyone has enough money for essentials. “We’re blessed to have the support of many churches in our community and they realise we take a holistic approach in supporting people,” explains Richard Owens, Chief Executive of Compassion Acts. Read more about Southport Foodbank in our web story.
Using food creatively
Churches can creatively connect with people in their communities through food, for example hosting a community meal bringing together people from a local context to share food. A recent vibrant example of this is The World Café hosted by Brunswick Baptist Church in Gloucester (led by an individual church, rather than being ecumenical per say). The World Café is built around a community meal, cooked by people who have often recently arrived in the city and want to engage with local people and learn about the culture and the people, but mostly want to feel free, simply to be themselves and share their own cultural riches.
A further resource is Simply Eat, an inspirational collection of stories and recipes celebrating the power of food and faith. Colourful and creative, this book exquisitely reveals all God can do when we simply eat. The resource is a joint initiative between the South Asian Forum and Great Commission from the Evangelical Alliance, in partnership with Interserve, London City Mission, All Nations, and the Diocese of Birmingham.
Share your story
At CTE we would love to hear your stories of how churches are working together to bring the transforming love of Jesus to communities by meeting deepest needs. Do you have a local story to share at village, town or city level? Contact CTE’s Principal Officer for Mission and Evangelism Ben Aldous.