Our Foodbank is now five years old! Since it opened we've given food to over 2,000 different households in our community, with each household receiving on average 4 foodpacks (representing enough food for 12 days for that family group). We're currently seeing about 30 new households coming through our doors every month. I dread to think how many cans of baked beans have passed through our hands in the last five years!
In many ways the Foodbank has been hugely successful. God has given us an incredible opportunity to be a blessing to our community, to fulfill the command of Jesus to feed the poor, to raise up and equip an amazing team of volunteers (lead by the remarkable Pat & Geoff Hallett), to build stronger links with all sorts of organisations and groups across our community and to grow the reputation of Kerith. We've also had the joy of seeing many Foodbank clients become not just part of our church community, but more importantly coming into a relationship with Jesus.
But on the other hand whenever I sit in our Foodbank and talk to the clients coming in for food I wish we could close it. That we could deal with the reasons that people are in need of the Foodbank in the first place, rather than just meeting the need. That mums in our community wouldn't be missing meals so that they can feed their children. That elderly people wouldn't be making a choice between eating or turning on their heating. It just doesn't seem right that in first world, 21st century Britain we should have growing numbers of people relying on Foodbanks.
I heard someone say recently that if you keep rescuing people out of the river, at some point you have to go upstream and find out who is throwing them in! We're going to carry on pulling people people out of the river, but I feel that we also need to have a voice in trying to stop people needing a Foodbank in the first place.
To that end in place of our usual annual Foodbank Celebration, we've decided to mark the five years of the Foodbank by hosting a half day event at which all those engaged in fighting the causes of poverty locally could come together to look at what we are doing and at what more could be done to reduce the need for a Foodbank in Bracknell. This is going to be on the morning of Thursday 16th October.
Our keynote speaker is Imran Hussain, Head of Policy, Rights and Advocacy at the Child Poverty Action Group. He will speak on the national picture and the work CPAG has been doing in local communities and with Foodbanks. We will then have contributions from local speakers and a panel discussion.
We realise that this is only a very tentative first step in us beginning to tackle some of the causes of poverty. However, I feel it's an important one as we look for the church to be 'the head and not the tail' in making a difference. Please be praying for the morning and all that flows from it. And if you'd be interested in coming along, or know of leaders in our community who you think need to be there, you can register for the event here - you can also go there for more details about the morning.
Jesus said that the poor will always be with us. That's part of the sad reality of living in a fallen world. I suspect that means there will always be a need for us to feed the poor. However, that doesn't mean that we don't have a voice in dealing with poverty and speaking up for the poor, in fact it's one of the very things that should mark us out as Jesus representatives on the earth today.
ps - There won't be any Foodbanks in heaven. Let's all pray for a bit more heaven on earth!