Letter from the Rectory - February 2023
The need for food banks across our nation is both a blessing for those who are really struggling during the current severe cost-of-living crisis, and a stain upon a nation with an advanced economy in the third decade of the 21st Century.
The Trussell Trust are one of the leading food banks in the UK. It was set up in 1997 by Carol and Paddy Henderson with a legacy left by Carol’s mother, Betty Trussell. Initially they focused on improving conditions for 60+ children sleeping rough at the Central Railway Station in Sofia in Bulgaria.
In 2000 Paddy received a call from a mother in Salisbury who was struggling to afford food and faced sending her children to bed hungry. He investigated data on poverty and deprivation in Britain. He found that significant numbers of people faced going hungry as a result of a sudden crisis. So, he started Salisbury Foodbank in his garden shed and garage, providing three day’s emergency food to local people in crisis.
The food bank model spread rapidly through church networks. In particular, inspiration was drawn from the verses in Matthew Chapter 25 when Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
The Trussell Trust and many other food banks continue to be based on and shaped and guided by Christian principles, whilst remaining accessible to all. In the year to end of March last year, 36,000 Trussell Trust volunteers working in 1,200 food banks across the country gave away over two million food parcels. Their current five-year strategy is entitled ‘Changing Communities, Changing Policy, Changing Minds’. Unlike virtually any other organisation, their greatest aim is to cease to need to exist at all.
For those of us who are more fortunate than others, it is easy to feel fairly helpless amidst the many challenges that people face in contemporary life. The truth is, though, that every good deed done, however modest, can make a real difference. The Henderson’s story is a reminder that sometimes these small beginnings do multiple unexpectedly and bring great blessing to many; and you and I don’t necessarily even need a garden shed to get started.