A year and one week ago, St Luke’s church in Buckfastleigh held their weekly Food Bank morning as usual, where families and individuals popped in for a chat and a coffee while getting a top up of groceries. However, during the following ten days systems were put in place to offer a 5 day a week delivery service as part of a wider town response, broadening the remit of the food bank to support anyone unable to get to the shops, facing furlough or redundancy, exhausted NHS workers and carers, or those who were self isolating. As the country locked down, St Luke’s was ready.
From the time of the first lockdown the local community donated a steady stream of food and money to increase the capacity of the Food Bank. Volunteers were signed up and trained to coordinate and deliver food alongside the wider town COVID-19 response which offered prescription pick ups, check in calls and general troubleshooting support to anyone needing help adapting to this strange locked down world.
Placed in the centre of town, St Luke’s became the centre of the community response with rector and Chair of Buckfastleigh Food Bank the Revd Tom Benson and curate Revd Laura McAdam creating new infrastructure, training volunteers and being a reassuring presence to those who dropped by or called up. Over the past year the Food Bank volunteers have stocked, logged and delivered 864 food parcels full of cupboard staples and fresh goods donated by individuals and local businesses. Covering an area stretching from Ashburton to South Brent, Dartington and into Dartmoor, around 2500 people have received nearly 13,000 meals.
The money donated has enabled the Food Bank to cater for many different diets, respond quickly to need and to build a warehouse that at its peak functioned at eight times the capacity of pre-COVID times. A year on, the systems are tried and tested, the volunteers continue to be tirelessly committed and there is now a mixed economy of collection and delivery available. St Luke’s remains a vital point of support for many in this community, offering far more than emergency food the clergy and volunteers stand with those in crisis and support families with long term planning to move into a more stable situation. This year has left the vulnerable even more so, worn out even the strongest and tried the patience of us all. But with the community spirit and determination seen by all involved in Buckfastleigh’s response to the pandemic, St Luke’s remains in a strong position to help all those looking for help. The Revd Tom Benson, states that ‘this has been a time which has affected every community and our experience is that every community has stepped up to help their neighbours when called upon. Our volunteers, backers and supporters have made great things possible without seeking personal glory, we owe them a huge debt of thanks.