St Gregory of Nyssa Food Pantry
A radical approach to food banks which offers choice, dignity and lavish generosity to all who attend. Most of the volunteers are people who first went there to receive food. A model for how food banks in the UK could become transformational.
The Casserole Club
The Casserole Club helps people to share extra portions of home cooked food with someone in their neighbourhood who may not be able to cook for themselves.
Food Nation is a social enterprise based in Newcastle upon Tyne which seeks to inspire adults and children to learn more about the food that they eat and addresses health inequalities resulting from poor diet.
Sara is the founder of St Gregory's Food Pantry and an inspirational person whose work and writing have touched the lives of thousands of people. Read an extract of her spiritual autobiography.
St Lydias Dinner Church
St Lydia's is an experiment in what the Church might be when a shared meal is at the heart of the common life. This is a place where people come to feed hungry souls and find communion and connection with God and one another.
NewcastleGateshead Eat Festival
Taking place annually, Eat! is a festival that celebrates North East food, producers, traders and talent and showcases them through an eclectic and quirky programme of events.
Somewhere Else in Liverpool is a faith community that meets around the making and sharing of bread. People share their experiences as they knead and make the bread.
Clandestine Cake Club
Begun nearly 4 years ago, there are now over 200 hundred local clandestine cake clubs where people bake and eat cake together - with conversations, friendships and community growing out of this. Great website too.
JustMeditation is an unaffiliated online resource about meditation including a directory of places where people can learn about and practice meditation. Users can submit reviews.
Revd Pauline Shelton reflects on food, theology and fellowship following her visit to the church of St Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco.
Free Cakes for Kids
Free Cakes for Kids is a service for families who find it difficult to provide a birthday cake for their child. The cakes are baked by volunteers from the community in the child's favourite style or theme.
We are delighted to have recently been able to provide some funding to help the Carers Trust Tyne and Wear to run some cooking sessions for some of the many young carers for whom they provide an invaluable network of support.
Our own work meanwhile is growing and each of the three projects which we have set up is growing and each taking on a new life of their own. The meditation classes which began 3 years ago are now under the umbrella of Just Meditation which has been set up as a social enterprise to take this flourishing project forward. A building has been identified in central Newcastle and a Meditation Centre will open in October. Pilgrim Street, the fresh expression of church is approaching its second birthday and a couple of important developments are under discussion which will grow and consolidate this group. Our hope is that it continues to evolve into a dispersed community with common christian principles. Finally the Bensham Community Food Co-op has just completed its sixth month of operation. In that time we have signed up 127 members and fed over 1139 adults and 727 children. Our partnership with Peace of Mind and Corpus Christi Church has made this possible and we hope that it will continue to offer its vital service to all the local people who use it. Around three quarters of the volunteers are people who use the co-op. There are plans to develop its scope and what we offer to include clothes and other items. We believe that this is a viable and healthy alternative model of a food bank.
We now have 96 members of the Bensham Community Food Co-op and have just fed our 1000th person. Its great working in partnership with Peace of Mind and Corpus Christi Church and it proves that together we can achieve things that we could never do alone. We have 6 volunteers who are members of the Co-op and its great to see their confidence grow over the weeks and a sense of pride and ownership in the Co-op. Some of them went to the Church last weekend and cleared all the weeds and litter without being asked. Real community integration for people who were isolated and unconnected. At the Co-op, members hang around to talk and socialise and there is a happy, positive atmosphere. Each week, as well as lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices we try to give some treats or special things - what we all love when we shop for ourselves. Its still early days but we think it shows that on a small, local level people who are poor and with little to eat can be given food with dignity, quality and choice.
We are now two weeks into our Food Co-op development. Although we initially planned to open twice weekly, we decided to make it once a week to start with as our volunteers are new but mainly because we have no idea what the demand will be or how much food we will require. Opening day was 12th April and we had lots of fresh fruit and vegetables along with pulses, rice, pasta spices and herbs as well as generic canned things such as tomatoes, pulses and beans. On day one we had 11 people become members with a total of 19 children; day 2 on Tuesday 19th saw a big increase with 26 new members and 7 returnees from last week which was a total of 43 adults and 48 children. It pretty much cleaned us out of all vegetables but a trip to the wholsesale market on the Team Valley early on Thursday soon replenished stocks. We've received £116 from the Churches in Bensham's Lent lunch donations and then on Saturday we received an unexpected cheque for £100 from Zurich Insurance Community Trust. Someone had kindly nominated us. We have always believed that "If you build it they will come" and likewise that we would always get the money we needed to keep the food coming. All the same, thanks to those who have donated. Its early daysin every way, especially with volunteers but we have managed to recruit volunteers who use the Food Co-op and our very first member is an amazing volunteer who was so happy and pleased after the second session when so many people came for food. Thanks so much to all at Peace of Mind and Tom at Corpus Christi for helping us to make this happen.
Excited that things are now moving forward with our plans for a Food Co-op in Bensham. After real difficulty finding a building we are grateful for the enormous generosity of Corpus Christi Church in the heart of the community for whom nothing has been too much trouble or demand. We are hoping to open twice a week from early March and are currently sourcing roll containers, bags, tables and other items. Ultimately we'd like to get shop space but this current option gives us a wonderful platfom on which to build a genuine community food co-op where people using it work to solve their own needs, choose the food they need and have the option of plenty of fresh produce.
Looking forward to working with Peace of Mind to develop an alternative food bank in Bensham and Saltwell. This will have fresh food, it won't be time limited, will give high quality and choice of food, will be culturally appropriate food and helped to run by the people who benefit from it. It will be a challenge but its what we beleive in and we want to show that there is a different model to that of the Trussell Trust. Faith can move mountains so watch this site for more information as our plans develop or follow us on Twitter.
We have just submitted our Annual Report and Accounts to the Charity Commission and these should be posted on their website within the next few days.
This page may have been quiet but like yeast in a good bread dough, the trustees at Soul Food Spaces have been quietly getting on with things providing energy, ideas and bits of cash to help some great people do amazing things. Recently we were pleased to help fund a one-off event with food for refugees, an area of work we have wanted to get involved with for a long time. Food brings people together whatever their nationality, faith or culture. One of our favourite food places in Gateshead is the Kurdish bakery and cafe - a great example of the way that food can not only be the basis of a small business but one which enriches the local community in Bensham. This is an area with problems but one which has some amazing people and many good things happening too. We are excited by discussions about the part food may play in bringing the community further together and in particular in realising one of our dreams for a different sort of food bank; one that is run by local people for local people - with choice, and high quality food including fresh produce. If food banks are a necessity in these times then let's get rid of the idea that people using them are scroungers, stop making them a demeaning experience and stop the recipients having to make do with low quality tinned goods.
Today we extended the monthly meditation from a single morning session to add a second session in the afternoon. This is in response to the high numbers now attending the morning session. We felt that 35+ was too many for people to talk about their experiences and that a second afternoon meditation would help to reduce numbers as well as opening up an opportunity for people who are busy on a Saturday morning. The morning session now starts at 10.30 until 12.30 and the afternoon runs from 1.30 until 3.30. Soul Food Spaces is about bringing people together around food so the free buffet lunch at 12.30 remains an integral part of the meditation, where people from both groups can meet and share together.
We are delighted to have been able to fund Advance for a second year, providing them with food through FareShare North East which enables them to continue to run a weekly Mens Health Group in the Windmill Hills Centre in Gateshead. Every week they cook a full midday meal for over 30 men, have an afternoon of activities and provide food parcels to take away. We are also pleased to have been able to provide a small amount of funding for St Chad's Community Centre to help them to continue their amazing work with children and families in Bensham, Gateshead. Both of these projects show what great work is already going on in our communities by very committed people who can make a small amount of money from us go a long way.
As we go into a New Year we look forward to working with our current partners and new ones to continue to help feed people in body mind and spirit. We are always looking for new projects in Tyne and Wear who we can work with so please do get in touch. Sadly this is a year when many people in our region will continue to go hungry without the help of others and we want to do something about this.
We are delighted to have been be able to make a small contribution to the fantastic work of Tyneside Womens Health http://www.tynesidewomenshealth.org.uk to enable them to run a programme called Winter Wellbeing where women will meet up once a week to prepare a whole range of different foods from brain-boosting smoothies to comforting soups and stews. Check out their website for more information about this and their other great work.
It is great to see an increasing number of creative and philanthropic ways of sharing food. This months will have seen thousands of pounds raised for Macmillan Cancer Support as many people bake cakes and hold coffee mornings as a fund raising activity. On our website Links page, we highlight The Casserole Club through which people can prepare an extra portion of food and share it with somebody living in their neighbourhood who is isolated and having difficulty cooking for themselves. We have also provided a link to the excellent free Cakes for Kids which has over 80 local groups in the UK who bake birthday cakes for children whose family finds it hard to provide one for them. Currently there is no local group in NE England but it would be wonderful if someone were willing to start one and we at Soul Food Spaces will do our best to support them and help to make it a fantastic success. If there are other similar charities out there that we can link in to, please email and let us know about them.
After a long application process, we are delighted that Soul Food Spaces has become a properly registered charity with the UK regulator, the Charity Commission. Our Registration number is 1157868. This means that all personal donations to us can now be gift aided which means that we are able to reclaim a further 25% of your donation from HM Revenue and Customs as tax paid. It also means that we have to submit annual audited accounts to the Commission who publish details on their website. This helps us to demonstrate that we use the money donated appropriately and run the charity in an open, honest and trustworthy manner.
The late Dutch theologian Henri Nouwen said that none of us escapes being wounded; we are all wounded people whether it is physical, emotional, mental or spiritual wounds that we carry. He sees this woundedness not as something to be ashamed of or hidden away but something which we put at the service of others and so become a source of healing. Soul Food Spaces is about recognising our woundedness and providing places and opportunities where we can share and give to others and so create places of community and healing.
Soul Food Spaces isn’t simply a foody thing. Whilst food in itself can bring pleasure and enjoyment, life is about more than this. We don't live by bread alone - our minds and spirits need food too. Soul Food Spaces is about creating places and situations where any or all of these parts of us can be fed.
Great to hear that our friends at Dinner Church in Brooklyn have found new store front premises from which to operate. They are busy fundraising to meet the cost of the refurbishment and have produced a really good video to appeal for support and to explain more about what Dinner Church is all about. Watch it and help if you can. See https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/st-lydia-s-dinner-church
Following the Launch Event we are really pleased to have been able to provide some support for one of the ideas put forward on the night. The Pilgrim Street Singers is a new choir for carers which meets once a week in Newcastle. This is led by two fantastic musicians and provides a great opportunity for carers of all ages to get out and meet with others, to sing and to enjoy food and refreshments together afterwards.
Fantastic launch night at the Settle Down Cafe in Newcastle. Over 30 people attended and there were lots of ideas and suggestions for future projects and activities. Individuals and groups of people are going away to try to develop some of these further and to link in with others who may be able to help. Although this was intended to be an introduction to the ideas we have at Soul Food Spaces it turned out to be an event in its own right and one that we hope to repeat in the near future. Thanks to all who came and for the good wishes from those who were unable to attend.
N“Food is an important part of a balanced diet.” Fran Lebowitz, writer
By the year 2000, we'd be eating our meals in the form of pills - or so the sci-fi fantasies of the 1970s suggested. Of course it never happened, because food is about far more than just meeting the nutritional requirements for life. Food involves culture, psychology, feelings; food is also about coming together with others and sharing. We know that's true by listening to the buzz of conversation in a busy café or restaurant; and we know that eating a meal alone can seem like little more than re-fuelling. Food is and should be about relationships, and this makes it even more important than just physical wellbeing. It's also about our emotional and spiritual wellbeing, and if these needs are not met we can be just as hungry as if our physical needs are not met, even though we may be less good at identifying these other forms of hunger.
Research has shown that loneliness can increase stress, heart disease, depression and poor health. People can be lonely at all ages, even when surrounded by others, but older people are particularly vulnerable, with retirement, bereavement and physical decline limiting options for social contact. We need to connect with other people to be healthy - and eating together is a simple and rewarding way of doing this. Luncheon clubs have historically played an important role, but with national spending cuts and reductions in funding, these are harder to sustain for local communities and voluntary groups.
Spiritually too we live in an age of hunger. “Everybody’s got a hungry heart,” sings Bruce Springsteen. There is still a great hunger to find a purpose in life, to find significance and meaning in a vast universe, despite the decline in church-going and disillusionment with established religion. “Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in God”, said St Augustine. All too often the spiritual void is filled by things which seem to provide us with easy solutions but which trap us into addictions or harmful behaviours. Jesus, who was no stranger to the joys of food and eating with others, promised that those who followed him and his teaching would be fed in a way which would satisfy their deepest longings and desires.
Soul food is about all of these things. It is about feeding the hungry in body, mind and spirit. It's about making connections, building relationships through sharing food or meals. As an organisation, Soul Food Spaces wants to provide places, ways and means of feeding the hungry. We want to offer opportunities through which all our hungers can be satisfied.
And in a truly counter-intuitive way, our deepest inner needs are only met and fed as a result of feeding others. At Soul Food Spaces we don’t claim to have all the answers. But we can do our bit to make change happen, to feed the world where we are, in a small place, within a small region in a small country. We want to be a catalyst to empower and support others to begin feeding others and thereby truly feeding themselves. We believe that our deepest hungers will be truly satisfied through the ordinary, everyday business of eating together and sharing with one another, allowing relationships, conversation and mutual care to transform lives.
Evaluation of Bensham Food Co-operative
04 September 2018
Annual Report 2017/2018
04 September 2018
Annual Report 2016/17
12 July 2018
Annual Report 2015/16
12 July 2018