One effect of the lockdown, apparently, even before the popular takeaway and delivery services started up again, is that people are turning to “comfort food”. Anything from browsing in the fridge to see what takes your fancy to ordering in your favourite curry. “Grazing” is not just for cattle – humans do it too, with chocolate and other tempting snacks being eaten more often than normal out of sheer boredom rather than actual hunger.
But what of those who are truly hungry? Where is the comfort food for them?
Perhaps it may be found at a local food bank. And the comfort may come not simply from a bag of groceries but from the welcome and reassuring smile of the person who hands it over. An unspoken message which says “it’s not your fault” and “we’re here to help” and “please don’t feel embarrassed”.
True stories abound of people who found their first visit to the food bank intensely difficult, because they did feel like a failure because they couldn’t give their children something for their tea, or they couldn’t make the money stretch to groceries because a bill just had to be paid that week. The staff and volunteers aren’t at fault – in fact I’m sure they make it much easier for people to make a return visit, if that is needed. Tears on both sides – the giver and receiver – are not uncommon in this simple act of sharing food, this acknowledgement that some folk are struggling to exist through no fault of their own.
Both Meadowside St Paul’s and St Andrew’s support the food bank but of course at the moment it’s not possible to put our donations in the box on a Sunday, and I have no doubt that I’m not the only person using a supermarket collection point instead.
What I like about my local supermarket is that there are two boxes: one for Taught by Muhammed and one for the Trussell Trust. Hunger is no respecter of religion and sharing food is one of the most basic ways by which to unite people. It is no accident that both Alpha and Messy Church include eating together as a crucial part of their programme.
I know of one family in St Andrew’s whose regular Sunday night tea has become a virtual tea, and I’m sure they’re not the only one: we enjoy sharing a meal and conversation, just as our Lord Jesus did. It is no accident that he has bequeathed to us his Holy Supper, with its constituent elements of bread and wine, “ordinary things of the world which are set apart for this holy use and mystery” as is said in the sacrament.
There must be many Christians who are missing the celebration of Communion (the Eucharist, Mass) but let’s remember that though we cannot join together in worship in the sanctuary our Lord is present with us in the ordinary things of the world.
As for the many who are hungry – if we can afford it, let us be a blessing to them by dropping something into the nearest collection box for our local food bank.
If we can make it a Fair Trade item, then our blessing of others is doubled.