“We feed – we listen”

Fir Vale food bank volunteers in the kitchen of St Cuthbert’s church, cooking.
Fir Vale food bank volunteers. Photo by Shuna Beckett.

Story and photo by Shuna Beckett

church is a food bank with a difference. It brings members of the community together to interact, share and grow in confidence in a friendly, open and non-judgmental environment. It is not just somewhere to come and ‘get some food’, but somewhere to sit down and have a community meal. Visitors can also have a free English lesson, advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau, and pick up some second hand clothes. Unlike other food banks who ask for referrals, anyone is welcome here – about fifty people attend the food bank at St Cuthbert’s each week.

Linda, the church warden, said: “We accept anyone. Anyone who’s hungry can come to us.”

Fir Vale food bank volunteers in the kitchen of St Cuthbert’s church, cooking.
Fir Vale food bank volunteers. Photo by Shuna Beckett.

Louise Collins, the former priest, started the food bank five years ago as a community partnership with St Cuthbert’s church. In summer 2015 Monica Sutton took over as priest and now the food bank runs as part of Occupy Sheffield, using its ethos of equality. All decisions
are made together at a weekly meeting, attended by twelve to twenty volunteers. There are roles for everyone: kitchen volunteers, welcomers, and others who mingle to provide a listening ear. Quite a few of the visitors have become volunteers themselves. Fir Vale food bank is part of the
Sheffield Food Bank Network of fifteen churches receiving donations from other churches, UNISON, the Islamic Society of Britain, and from individuals. The volunteers were delighted to speak with us all and their positivity and passion for the project was infectious.

Susan said:
“It’s not about coming in and doing something, it’s not an intervention – it’s grassroots, it’s empowering people, it’s quite inspiring.”
The food bank runs every Thursday from 2-3pm at St Cuthbert’s church, Barnsley Road. If you would like to donate, please visit www.localgiving.org/firvalefoodbank or just bring food donations to the church. If you are interested in volunteering, email firvalefoodbank@gmail.com or just turn up by 1pm on a Thursday.