Thousands of hungry people will benefit this Harvest Festival time as cathedrals up and down the country are tackling food poverty by donating their gifts to food banks and other similar projects.
The news comes after the Church Urban Fund released its latest research to show one in 50 of adults surveyed had used a food bank in the last 12 months.
Up and down the country, cathedrals are asking their congregations to donate fresh and non-perishable goods this harvest which they will pass on to their local food-banks, crisis or homeless centres.
Manchester held its Harvest Festival and collected for the Booth Centre which offers activities, advice and support for the homeless by signposting to accommodation, education, training and help to secure employment, provides free healthy meals, tackles health and addiction, and offers creative activities to boost confidence and self-esteem.
At Chelmsford, tractors will lead the procession inside the Cathedral this Sunday and the Cathedral has teamed up with the UK-based charity, Tools with a Mission, that collects unwanted tools to recycle and send across the world to help create sustainable livelihoods.
Bradford will donate its gifts to the Abigail Housing and Bradford Central Food Bank, which supports refugees and asylum seekers. The congregation can also donate fresh food to a Pay As You Feel café that uses food destined for landfill to make nutritious meals in the nearby village of Saltaire.
Winchester is collecting for the Winchester Basics Bank which provides emergency food and clothes to individuals and families in need, and Guildford’s Harvest collection on 8 October will go the North Guildfood Food Bank and the No 5 Project which supports the homeless and runs a winter night shelter.
In Ripon, the Cathedral hosts the Yorkshire Agricultural Society Harvest Thanksgiving which recognises and supports the local agricultural community. A fundraising supper will see all monies go to the Ripon Salvation Army Food Bank.
The Minster Community at York Minster sponsors the Middlesborough Food Bank which has fed over 3,000 people – including families and children – in the last 12 months.
Durham Cathedral is the drop off point for donations to the Durham Foodbank organised by Durham Christian partnership. St Albans Cathedral is collecting for its local foodbank and this year the Bishop of Alban’s Harvest appeal, ‘Full of Beans’, supports the development of community projects which transform the lives of people in remote rural villages of the Philippines by helping them to grow, harvest and sell beans.
Liverpool Cathedral supports the Hope Plus Foundation which helps people living in poverty in the city centre. Norwich Cathedral’s Group for Social Concerns will be collecting for the Norwich Foodbank this Harvest Thanksgiving.
Harvest gifts at St Edmundsbury Cathedral will be divided between the Storehouse Foodbank and Tayfen House for homeless people; Wakefield Cathedral donates all its harvest gifts to the Wakefield Rent Deposit Scheme, which helps young people out of homelessness, and Chester Cathedral will collect for the Chester and Ellesmere Port Foodbank.
Sheffield Cathedral’s Archer Project is a deeply established and well respected outreach service for the homeless and vulnerable in the city. It grew out of the simple response to feed the hungry with its Slice of Toast project set up almost 30 years ago. It is now a day centre providing basic support to those aged 18 and above, to help them out of homelessness and exclusion, and offers help including food parcels, showers and laundry facilities, in-house nurse and dental clinics and programme of activities to help people gain skills and accreditations.
The Dean of Sheffield, the Very Rev’d Peter Bradley, said: “The season of Harvest Festivals is an opportunity for cathedrals to communicate their thanksgiving in generosity through sharing the gifts we are given with those who find themselves facing great need.
“Here in Sheffield we know only too keenly the impact this can have on the lives of those most vulnerable in our communities.
“The Archer Project was born out of feeding one homeless man who walked off the streets into the Cathedral 28 years ago, and today we are proud to say it helps hundreds of lives every week. When we allow our thanks to be poured out in generosity, we can make a real, positive and lasting effect on the lives of others.”
A parade of children and young people bearing Harvest gifts will start Salisbury Cathedral’s Harvest Festival on October 8. All foodstuffs collected go to three locally-based charities working alongside people who are homeless or in need: Alabaré, Salisbury Trust for the Homeless and the Trussell Trust, founded in Salisbury and now sponsoring a country-wide network of foodbanks. The city of Salisbury and rural Wiltshire are not places you might naturally associate with homelessness and poverty but the Parish of St Thomas and St Edmund, at the heart of the city, is in the top quarter of parishes suffering from deprivation. The theme of the Harvest service will be not only our responsibility to our community but our responsibility to the planet.
The Church Urban Fund has just released its latest report on food poverty which surveyed 2,048 adults. One in 50 of those surveyed said that they had used a food bank during 2016. This equates to nearly 1 million adults (0.95 million) across Britain. Even more people (1 out of 20 adults) said they had missed meals in the past 12 months because they could not afford food.