More than 320 children and parents enjoyed hearty homecooked meals thanks to a half term Hampers of Hope initiative to help tackle food insecurity and share God’s love, from churches in West Wigan.

Volunteers from three Church Wigan worship communities prepared and delivered hampers for families to enjoy during February half term - including ingredients and recipes for traditional Lancashire corned beef “lobbies”, and a hot dog pasta.

They also contained ingredients to make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, and activities including making ashes from Palm crosses on Ash Wednesday, and a Bible-inspired Lent eco-challenge with ideas for 40 days of actions to reduce waste.

The hampers were topped up with surplus food items from the local Real Junk Food project, including fresh vegetables, drinks, crisps, tinned beans and soup.

The initiative was among 24 activities funded by a Feast of Fun at Home grant from social justice charity Together Liverpool, at churches across the Diocese of Liverpool in February 2021.

Church Wigan Feast of Fun Feb 21 - Loading hampers with veg

Twenty-eight volunteers from St James with St Thomas church, St Paul’s church and St Matthew’s church joined together to deliver the West Wigan activity, helping to feed 322 people including 162 children.

Among the hamper recipients were 40 families experiencing food insecurity who are regular members of the Tom Pantry at St James with St Thomas church, and pupils from St James School, and St Paul’s School, home to the Lighthouse and Wellspring worship communities.

Revd Mark Wade, Hub leader at West Wigan said the project provided an opportunity to serve the local community and share the Gospel of Jesus. He said: “What a huge difference this grant made for us at Wigan West Parish.

“Part of the area of Wigan we cover has one of the worst deprived areas in the country. Just to know we had a grant of £500 allowed us to dream big about what we could offer.

“The people we are reaching are people who are struggling to feed their family quite a lot. Some are also people who are connected to our worship communities but are struggling with the fact they can’t meet up.

“If we weren’t in Covid then the doors would have been open, as we did in February and October 2019, we would have had an activity day with lunch, but we couldn’t do that.”

Church Wiogfan Fo F Feb 21

“The funding from Together Liverpool enabled us to think outside the box and be able to offer something at half term when many people are at isolation breakdown,” said Revd Wade.

“We wanted to provide healthy recipes in line with the grant conditions but we also wanted to enable and encourage people to try some home cooking.

“We called it the half term hope hamper as we began the season of Lent not only to feed people but also what that might mean for us in this challenging time.

“I got to take part in some of the door to door deliveries. It was a real joy and people were overwhelmed with the hampers, thinking it was just going to be a pancake.

“People are getting so much more than simply a food hamper, from relationships to friendship, it’s about helping tackle food poverty but also social isolation.”

Church Wigan FoF Feb 21

Revd Wade added: “Going forwards part of Church Wigan is not just food provision but also teaching people what to do with food.

“If a food outlet randomly has aubergines, then we can provide recipe cards and live tutorials. What we trialled in this activity was having recipes in the booklet.”

He said: “This wouldn’t have happened without the Feast of Fun at Home funding. We would probably have sourced some extra food to support the Tom Pantry members over half term but we wouldn’t have reached 110 families.

It follows an activity in December 2020 when Church Wigan delivered 1,000 Christmas Day hampers to families.

Revd Wade said: “We have got a really good referral system now across Wigan from food outlets, to schools, to worship communities to help us to co-ordinate.”

“We at the Parish of West Wigan aren’t just about handing food over to families. Delivering the hampers helps us to connect with people with some door to door ministry.

“The activity bags were an ideal opportunity for us to do mission. To tell families about why we eat pancakes, why we put ash on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday. It also provided an opportunity to encourage families to recycle more and think about our planet, the planet that God created for us and placed us in.”

“Perhaps one of the best pictures to emerge from this event was the number of volunteers who came forward to help us. Indeed some who came forward have expressed an interest to be involved again.”

“Thank you Together Liverpool for enriching our half term offering to local families, it has been a great success and we feel we have used the grant wisely. We have sown seeds of the kingdom and will look forward to what sort of harvest this yields.”