“The Christmas meal was amazing, the atmosphere with the carols singers was wonderful, I didn’t want to leave!” – attendee at Christchurch Food Bank+ Community Meal
Warm Welcome Spaces have been springing up all over the place at churches, libraries and community spaces across the UK. Food Bank+, supported by Faithworks, have been running a variety of warm spaces and community meals over the winter. We are aware however, that these spaces will be needed long after winter is over.
Alistair, CEO, explained: “These spaces provide much more than just warmth. They enable people to meet others in a safe place, make new friendships, find community as well as find out about local practical support.
Our aim is for everyone to be within 15 minutes of a place of welcome that radiates life, community, and immediate help: no one should have to walk through hard times alone! So, we’re cheering on our Food Bank+ teams who are creatively providing such places, like the community meal in Christchurch.”
Christchurch Food Bank+ (CFB+) launched their first community meal in early 2022 and have been running these every fortnight since.
The airy, open space of the GodFirst Church café provides a wonderful location. Comfortable seating around the hall surrounds the tables which are laid out ready to welcome guests. A team of 15 volunteers enable the evening to run smoothly. Some are involved in the cooking, while others warmly greet guests and get to know them throughout the evening. The atmosphere is so friendly it is difficult to tell guests from volunteers.
Sarah Lyon, CFB+ Deputy Manager, explained: “Our Community Meal provides a delicious home cooked hot meal and dessert, in a very comfortable space at GodFirst Church.
Our team of volunteers ensure that no one is on their own and everyone feels welcome. It really is a lovely atmosphere.”
Over 40 people have been attending on a regular basis with 65 coming to the Christmas meal. It has also provided a safe space for Ukrainian families settling in to the area to find community both with other Ukrainian families and others in the local community.
The Ukrainian families were really keen to get involved and prepared a Ukrainian vegetarian dish; the team are now planning a full Ukrainian meal once full kitchen facilities have been completed at GodFirst Church.
With such a welcoming team and food which includes honey beef noodles, french apple pie and cream, or chicken pie followed by raspberry pavlova, it’s not hard to see why the meals are so popular. As one guest simply summed it up: “[It was] so friendly, I felt comfortable and the food was delicious!”
It is a treat for the volunteers too who enjoy the delicious food and have the pleasure of chatting to new people. One said: “I love everything about volunteering and the supper. I feel part of something really special’
As friendships continue to form, it is clear that the Community Meal is about so much more than just hot food. Running the meal provides a safe place, where someone is always available for a chat.
Sarah said: “Having run this meal for the past year, we have seen the need for safe community spaces all year round. Summer may not be as cold however we all need community no matter what time of year.”
The next meal will take place on Wednesday 1st February at 5.30pm. Booking is essential – to book your free place please contact Christchurch Food Bank+ on 07587 371088 or 07536 983678 by Friday 27th January.
We are able to run the Community Meal thanks to local funding sourced by Tracy Blick, CFB+ Projects Manager. A special thank you, to GodFirst for making us feel so welcome, and to our amazing volunteers who prepare and serve the meals. They faithfully give so much of their time and energy to both the Food Bank+ and the Community Meal, we are so grateful.
You can find out more about community meals and warm spaces below:
- Blandford Food Bank+ runs The Warmer Welcome every Thursdays, 2pm – 4pm. Hosted at the Food Bank – simply turn up and join others for a hot drink, cake and a chat.
- Wimborne Food Bank+ run their Community Meal on the second Thursday of the month, 4pm – 7pm at Elim Church. However, February will be a little different due to half-term – there will be a breakfast at Leigh Park on Monday 13th February. To book your free space or for more information please call the Food Bank 07766 395944.