Christ the Servant Church, Skelmersdale increases food support to six days a week

Christ the Servant Church in Digmoor, Skelmersdale has extended its existing food support to the community during the COVID-19 crisis. The Open Table Community Café would normally meet twice a week, has now opened its doors six days a week for people to come and collect free, surplus food.

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The Open Table Community Café was set up in 2019 to provide free food and a space for the community of Christ the Servant Church in Digmoor to come together.

Paul Givens who coordinates The Open Table Community Café project said:

“Last summer we got involved with the charity FareShare, a national charity looking at fighting hunger and reducing food waste.

“We started The Open Table Community Café with the aim to use surplus food from supermarkets to make a hot meal twice a week and provide an opportunity for people to come together, have a conversation and become stronger as a community.”

“The area the church serves is in one of the highest deprivation areas in the country. The project aims to feed those who need it the most and to make it known that we do not want anyone in this day and age to go hungry.”

“We also want to build a sense of community within the area and this is happening through conversation over the table at mealtimes.”

The Open Table Community Café regularly feeds around 20 people per session with meals free for all. Fresh bread and vegetable leftover are then distributed to those who wanted to take them home to make more meals.

The COVID-19 crisis impacted the way The Open Table Community Café has been able to operate.

Paul said: “As we were unable to cook meals we had to think about what we could do instead. The idea of opening the doors and allowing people to come and collect the surplus food for them to cook themselves became apparent.”

“We knew that there were families with children who, as the schools were closed, the children were not getting a cooked meal and we needed to try and help with this. This is where Free Food Fridays came about.”

The group was able to open six days a week due to an increase in the amount of surplus food: “The amount of surplus food has become greater with people not going out shopping as much.”

The Open Table Community Café offers free food which is donated to them from ASDA, Tesco, M&S and FareShare, and which would otherwise have gone to waste.

Alongside the increase in the supply of food, there has been a noticeable increase in the need for food support in the local community, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We now have people queuing outside before we are open to get the food for that day or week. It has become busier and busier during lockdown.”

“The COVID-19 lockdown has made communities stronger and a sense of being in it together. We now have some members of the community who do not normally attend church coming and taking food to those who are vulnerable in their streets and neighbourhoods.”

Whilst it has been a challenge to keep the church open six days a week and finding volunteers to open up the church, a team of volunteers have stepped up to keep the church open each morning for those collecting free food.

The recent re-opening of the church for private prayer has also enhanced the community project. “Having the church open for personal prayer, it blends together the sense of community and God’s work and love for his people.”

The initiative continues to grow in the community. “Everyone who has been to collect the free food has sent the message around the community. Word of mouth is increasing the number of people. We know we are touching people’s lives as a church sharing outwardly God’s love for all.”