An East Leeds support centre which helps people out of poverty has been tackling hunger by teaming up with a supermarket giant.
St Vincent’s Support Centre has been benefitting from Tesco’s Community Food Connection scheme (CFC), which redistributes unsold surplus food to charities and groups.
St Vincent’s collects food donations from Tesco’s Seacroft store once a week, which go towards providing emergency food parcels consisting of fresh food such as eggs, bread, fruit and vegetables.
Last year alone, St Vincent’s Support Centre provided 1,381 emergency food parcels to those in need.
Sheena Eastwood, centre manager at St Vincent’s, said: “Signing up to Tesco’s Community Food Connection scheme has enabled us to support over 5,700 people from Leeds that require our help. Before we started to receive the donations, our emergency food parcels only consisted of dried and tinned foods, but now we’re able to offer loads of varied products.”
St Vincent’s helps people by providing a range of services like counselling, debt, benefits, education and support sessions, as well as providing free hot meals from its Community Café.
Sheena added: “We also provide a weekly support group drop-in every Thursday morning which provides free advice, guidance and food for support to migrants.
“The benefits are huge for our entire local community as many struggle to feed themselves and their family. The support we receive from Tesco is paramount to this success.”
The centre manager also highlighted a family-of-five from Kurdistan who have been assisted by the CFC scheme, which is run in partnership with food charity FareShare.
Sheena said: “They are able to access the fresh food Tesco provides for us. They are living on very limited finance. They have got three children who are either teenagers or coming close to teenage. They grow and so their feet grow, and they need new shoes. They want all the things that the other children in their class want, but mum and dad can’t necessarily afford it.
“As well as having access to fresh food, they are also able to divert the resources, that they do have available, elsewhere. It means as a family they are benefitting not just from the free food, which is amazing, but also from the other benefits of that.”
CFC has also helped St Vincent’s Stay and Play scheme, which aims to combat holiday hunger for youngsters.
Sheena added: “Once term time stops, obviously the free school meals stop as well. Last year we trialled it and we had about 45 children coming in some days. This year we have consistently had 25 to 30 children coming in a day with their parents. We do breakfast first, then we do an activity and then they have a free healthy lunch. Again, the food that has come in from Tesco has helped us with that as well.
“It’s running for five weeks, from the last week of July all the way through August.”
At Christmas Tesco also provided free vegetables for a festive community dinner for 85 people St Vincent’s. Nicola MacKay, Tesco’s community food programmes manager, said: “The work St Vincent’s Support Centre undertakes in the community is nothing short of remarkable. The number of people they have already helped through their outreach programme is fantastic and we are delighted to be helping the charity provide better care to vulnerable people in the area.”
St Vincent’s Support Centre is dedicated to changing lives through advice, support, education and community.
It runs free and inclusive activities like ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), arts and conversation, an IT class, a friendship group and a work club.
It holds classes in term time at its base on Berking Avenue in East Leeds, and at Richmond Hill Community Centre and at Christ Temple of Worship on Shannon Street.
Among St Vincent’s values is compassion for, and solidarity with, all in need, irrespective of ideology, faith, ethnicity, age or gender.
It is funded by a mix of sources, like the lottery, Talk English, and by people raising money for it through challenges like a sponsored walk and the Three Peaks.
The centre has around 130 volunteers but is always looking for more.
Anyone who wants more information about St Vincent’s should see www.stvincentsorg.co.uk, call 0113 2484126, or email email@example.com.
Meanwhile, Tesco’s Community Food Connection wants to hear from any charities which could benefit from this programme.
It has helped more than 7,000 local charities and community groups since its launch in 2016. Interested groups should either contact their nearest store or visit fareshare.org.uk/getting-food/fareshare-go-support to register.