Diocese of Portsmouth

    Gosport church feeds families in need

    22 Aug. 2022

    A GOSPORT church has thrown open its doors to feed hungry families over the summer.

    St Matthew’s Church in Bridgemary is offering free breakfast, lunch and dinner to those who may be struggling with the cost of living, both individuals and families. People can stay in church and eat there, with games for their children to play, or they can take the food home.

    They’ve also run baking and cookery classes, helping children to learn vital skills – as well as providing tasty treats to take home. The Holiday Meals project is running throughout the school holidays, with the church building open every weekday while the schools are closed.

    Mum Chelsea Fitton, who came along with her children Tommy, aged 8, George, aged 6, and one-year-old Alice, said: “It’s take a lot of pressure off. They would normally have free school meals so this really helps in the summer holidays. The children get to meet friends and lunch is provided. And it reduces my shopping bills by about £30 a week, so I can pay my electric bills.”

    And Val Azisi, who brought her children Malakai, Talia, Shani and Jo-Jo, said: “I found this via Facebook and signed up for one session, and they said I could come every day! I’m really grateful, as my older two are quite big and actually eat quite a lot! It’s great that there's no pressure – you can sit down and eat here or just take it away. Baking is also an activity they enjoy, so it’s great that that's provided.”

    A baking workshop at St Matthew's Church, Bridgemary
    Planting and caring for vegetables in the allotment outside St Matthew's Church, Bridgemary

    Team vicar the Rev Samantha Martell was inspired to help after becoming a governor at the federated Elson and Gomer Infant Schools in Gosport.

    “It quickly became evident that many of our local families needed urgent help,” she said. “The cost-of-living crisis escalated so quickly that more and more were having to make the awful decision about whether to feed their children, or pay their bills. During the winter, this situation is only going to get worse, not only for families, but the many seniors we have in the parish. Then we will have the added problem of heating costs.

    “We want to continue providing meals, and a safe space for families to spend time together, throughout the year. We currently have around 50 people we regularly engage with. Yet we know this number will increase. What we are doing here cements what the Church teaches us to be and do. I thank God for calling me to Gosport and whatever that may bring.”

    The church also hopes to be open for a similar initiative to give away food in school holidays at half-term and Christmas.

    Among the other community initiatives embraced by the parish are ‘Muddy Church’, which has involved creating an allotment and inviting families to help grow and harvest food. They hold monthly sessions on a Saturday morning, to introduce children to the excitement of growing vegetables for themselves.

    For more information, see: northgosportparish.org/holiday-meals or ring 01329 822487.

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