Our centre hosts are essential to the sustainability of Cambridge City Foodbank; through their support we are able to provide our services to communities in need across Cambridgeshire. This month, we spoke to Andrew Sweasey, Pastor at Christ Church Trumpington, which runs our Alpha Terrace Foodbank centre, about how the centre got started, the unique Trumpington population and being able to connect with the community in new ways.
How long have you been running the Alpha Terrace Foodbank centre in Christ Church Trumpington?
The Alpha Terrace Foodbank centre started in 2014, but back then it was run by the C3 church out of the former Trumpington Free Church’s chapel. We took over this space in 2017 and were very happy to pick up the operation of the Foodbank; that’s where the relationship began.
Please tell us a little about the community which Christ Church Trumpington serves?
When the Alpha Terrace centre opened in 2014, Trumpington had a population of 8,000. That number has now grown to 15,000 people and it’s still going up. Those familiar with the area know that Trumpington has been a focus for property development and it has been dictated that, of the new housing, 40% has to be affordable. The growth of Trumpington, therefore, has been wonderful for Cambridge and it has created a very mixed community – there are people who own £1million houses, living just a stone’s throw from people who have been placed in housing by a Housing Association and are relying on benefits. So, while there is a perception of great wealth, there is also great poverty, and that’s why it’s great to be able to help in a small way by hosting the Foodbank.
We are also fortunate at Trumpington to serve a very international community, largely owing to the broad community the hospital attracts. We are always keen to support people of different cultures and are currently running both a weekly International Café and free English language conversation classes in the church.
What have been the highlights of facilitating a Foodbank centre in the church?
Through the Foodbank we have been able to connect with people and serve a community that we wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise and this has been a true joy for me. As the church pastor, not a volunteer, I am able to write Foodbank vouchers for people, so, where possible, I make sure I am at the sessions as often as possible and available to help anyone without a voucher, as well as having a good chat, of course.
And the key challenges?
As volunteers will be aware, when COVID kicked off the Foodbank made the decision to pool its resources to keep some centres open and to shut others to avoid overloading and falling over, while keeping everyone safe. Alpha Terrace was not incredibly busy at the time and so we were one of the ones that shut. When we reopened last year, there was lots to do in terms of liaising with the Foodbank about practicalities like risk assessments but we were excited to get going again.
As I hear is the case in the other Foodbank centres, it’s getting increasingly busy now at Alpha Terrace and the need for our support is definitely growing. The last few weeks, we’ve had people waiting outside for us to open and this has been challenging to see.
Overall, however, we consider it to be a privilege rather than a challenge to be involved with the Foodbank; we are so grateful we are able to play a part in supporting our community in numerous ways.
Is there anything you’d like to do in future to expand your partnership with the Foodbank in order to better support the Cambridge community?
We would love to be able to build closer links to our church by having more of our members involved with volunteering.
Do you run any similar initiatives like the Foodbank in the church?
We have a heart for supporting families in need during the holidays. For example, we run a Christmas hamper campaign with a local children’s centre and, in the past, we’ve been involved with a holiday lunches club, which we would love to reinstate.
We’re also talking with the local family centre right now to see how we might support Ukrainian refugees. We know there are Ukrainian people living with families in South Cambridgeshire (and more due to move into the area) who are needing the support of the Foodbank. It would be great to collaborate more on how we can support them.