The Wokingham Paper

How Wokingham’s Grub Club is fighting poverty with meals

Wokingham’s first-ever Grub Club launched last week to help low-income families over the expensive summer holidays.

Hosted by Norreys Church on Norreys Avenue, families and children are encouraged to access free hot meals and activities twice a week while schools are broken up.

Our Community First, Churches Together in Wokingham, Wokingham United Charities and the Wokingham Borough Council Community Engagement Team collaborated to create a social space which tackles rising poverty levels in this borough.

Norreys Church member and part of the Grub Club team Claire Revie said: “It’s about creating a friendly, safe and welcoming environment.

“There was a real buzz in the air during our first club meeting last week, and everyone gets something from it – both the volunteers and the families who attend the club. It’s a two-way process.”

Children are able to take part in free workshops, from arts and crafts to circus skills and the clubs can provide enough food for up to 100 people per session.

Together with other members of Norreys Church, Wokingham Baptist Church and the community development officer for Norreys Ward Lisa Hookway, Ms Revie put in a bid with Wokingham United Charities in June.

The team worked quickly to get the club up and running in time for the school holidays.

Fresh ingredients

Norreys Church member Claire Revie said: “The hunger issue is huge nationwide and this is just one small way to try to combat it.”

Norreys Church uses fresh meat, fruit and vegetables, including fresh strawberries from Hunter Whole Farm, and are even supplemented by Wokingham’s Morrisons.

The surplus food redistribution charity FareShare also assists by providing food from supermarkets, manufacturers, growers and producers.

It has grown into a community effort and helped build bridges between different parts of the town Ms Revie explained.

She added: “We were overwhelmed with help from the churches.

“Normally, you struggle to get one or two volunteers. But we had just over 50 volunteers in just a few weeks.

“If ever there were a sign from a Christian perspective that this was the right thing to do, that would be it.”

How to join

Families can join the club by invitation. The club contacted the schools, the children centre and the council community workers and asked if they knew anyone who might be in need.

Ms Revie explained: “It is often lower-income families that struggle to get by, and quite often they are the ones who get missed.

“It’s not that we are preaching – if you can help then I feel you should, and create a positive impact on the community.

“We want to take away shame and embarrassment from the situation, as more and more people are having to access the food banks nationwide.

“For the majority of the people who live in Wokingham having to ask for a handout is probably the most alien concept of them all.

“But it’s not done from a pity perspective. We want to decrease loneliness and focus on the social aspect – and we acknowledge summer holidays are expensive.”

This is how Wokingham Grub Club is funded

Wokingham United Charities provided a grant to the Grub Club as part of its priorities area programme, which includes Norreys Estate, Gorse Ride Estate and St Sebastian’s.

Wokingham United Charities trustee Janet Rogers said: “There’s a huge requirement for something like the Grub Club and it’s really exciting to see that it has got going. We are keen to help to make sure children don’t go without food in the school holidays.

“There’s a whole pile of people who have got involved – a large number of Wokingham churches involved well supported in the local community, with a lot of volunteers and support from local businesses. It is a project that has captured the imagination of the local community.

“We want people to feel they are part of the Grub Club, and they can take ownership of it as well, maybe help with cutting up the vegetables in the kitchen.”

Ms Rogers also explained they are hoping to make it a long-term initiative, adding: “We are keen to support this area and make sure it’s not just a one-off.”

Council gives its support

Executive member for environment and leisure Cllr Parry Batth said: “It’s wonderful to see residents within the borough come together to support children and families during the summer holidays.

“We know all too well that this time of year can be a challenge for a lot of families and I’m proud that our residents are being proactive in offering their time and energy to provide food and fun activities for people who would value a little help. I’m equally proud that our Council services are able to offer their support to this as well.”

The club runs from noon to 2pm twice a week until Friday, August 30. Email to get involved.

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