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'5 million meals per month during the pandemic' 

Churches across the UK have provided more than 5 million meals per month during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report

Church in lockdownThe report, released by YourNeighbour, suggests many of those meals have been provided to frontline workers, those who were self-shielding and individuals too embarrassed to ask for help.

YourNeighbour has been a UK-wide church response to Covid-19. In the six-week period after the onset of lockdown the founders built a network of over 1,100 churches with denominational partners including the Church of England, Salvation Army, Baptists Together, Assemblies of God, Vineyard, and the Methodist Church.

The new report, The Church in Lockdown, highlights a number of areas where churches have been active in responding to the emergency needs felt across the country.

One of the key areas has been its response to the crisis in food poverty, which has been highlighted time and again in 2020 with the increased demand for foodbanks and the advocacy work being done by high profile spokespeople such as Marcus Rashford. The report estimates that churches across the UK have provided more than 5 million meals per month during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Tim Pikington, Director of YourNeighbour said, 'During lockdown we have seen a remarkable response from the British church, the buildings were closed but the Church was open. The Church responded quickly and creatively. 

'As well as churches providing, what we estimate to be more than five million meals per month to those in need, they have also played a vital role in providing emotional and spiritual needs through pastoral and bereavement support, domestic violence interventions and mentoring, among others.'

The report cites the example of West End Baptist Church in Wiltshire, which sought to address digital poverty by refurbishing and distributing laptops through local schools, so that disadvantaged pupils could continue to engage with the curriculum. 

The report found that 90 per cent of surveyed churches supported the vulnerable in some way, with 58 per cent providing emergency food, 57 per cent providing befriending services to the elderly and isolated, and almost half of the surveyed churches started a new community engagement initiative during the pandemic.

In addition to finance, staff, volunteers and buildings, churches have a unique and valuable resource, stated the report - trust. It quoted the Revd David Hitchcock of Tonbridge Baptist Church:

'Trust has been our greatest asset in the midst of this crisis. The fact that we have been part of our community for decades, supporting families, running programmes, serving the vulnerable and partnering with local agencies, means that we are a safe place for people who are struggling and a dependable organisation that local leaders and policy makers can rely upon.'

Church-based programmes are well-positioned to help communities during the long-term recovery from Covid-19, added Tim. 

'We have seen new partnership opportunities between churches and local authorities develop and our hope is that this is a foundation from which we can build over the coming months.'

To find out more about YourNeighbour and The Church in Lockdown report go to yourneighbour.org  

Baptist Times, 29/10/2020
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