A COVENTRY scheme which helps unemployed people and migrants find jobs said the simple act of serving up a hot meal can be invaluable in guiding vulnerable people into work.
The project, which is based at St Francis of Assisi Chuch in Radford, supports around 70 people every day in an area where unemployment is high – a figure which is steadily rising as migration increases.
Reverend Liz Jackson said: “Being able to serve meals to the people we help makes such a difference. It creates a welcoming atmosphere, and sets our service users at ease.
“Once we have engaged with these vulnerable people over a meal, we are able to start to support them and help to turn their lives around.”
Volunteers at the church had previously been buying food with money from their own pockets, until they signed up to be part of Tesco and FareShare’s Community Food Connection in December.
The scheme recruits and supports charities and community groups, linking them to Tesco stores via an app which allows store teams to alert them to surplus unsold food items available at the end of each day.
The retailer supplies the scheme with fresh produce including fruit, vegetables and bakery products, as well as chilled products such as meat, cheese and ready meals.
These free items allow volunteers at the church to serve five lunch sittings and three breakfasts a week, with meals including scrambled eggs on toast, homemade soup, vegetable casserole, ratatouille and jacket potatoes.
Reverend Jackson said: “Supplying this food ourselves was unsustainable. Demand is increasing all the time due to a rise in Asylum seekers in the area and benefit sanctions taking their toll on local people.
“670 new people have come through our doors since September.
“Many of the people we help are already at crisis point, while we work hard to stop the situation getting so bad for others. They are often facing challenges such as long-term unemployment, a lack of English, skills, mental health problems, homelessness and malnutrition.”
The food scheme has helped provide more than five million meals to over 3,300 community groups and charities since its launch in February last year – with 100,000 meals being provided in Coventry alone.
To see if a charity or community group is eligible visit www.fareshare.org.uk/fareshare-foodcloud.