West Leeds lunch club is helping people of all ages to make friends

A West Leeds luncheon club which brings people together to develop friendships is a big hit with young and old alike.

Tuesday, 12th November 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th November 2019, 6:02 pm
Young families are a firm fixture at Oak Church's luncheon club in West Leeds.

Connect Lunch at Oak Church in Stanningley is catering every Monday for people of all ages. Its members range from babies to 80-year-old pensioners.

The weekly group, which meets from 11am to 1pm in the church hall on Bradford Road, is part of the Places of Welcome Network. The UK-wide initiative sees community venues providing a place where people can go and see a friendly face and have a chat.

The club is being helped by Tesco’s Community Food Connection scheme where surplus food is donated from stores to community groups or charities.

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Jo White is part of the People's Team at Oak Church in Stanningley.

Jo White, who has been involved in Connect Lunch since it began two-and-a-half years ago, said: “Our main aim is to provide food for anyone who is in food poverty, as well as providing an opportunity for people to connect, build friendships and to combat loneliness. The donations supplement the Church’s contribution to the meal and enables us to serve more people and make higher quality, more nutritious meals that give a greater choice for our community members.”

Around 30 people from all walks of life attend the luncheon club each week for a free two-course healthy meal.

Jo added: “We have a group of young families, parents with toddlers who come along. We have had ladies in their 80s. We do get a fair number of older people, retired, and also some people who are not able to work. Anyone who has got free time on a Monday, really. We range from babies to 80-year-olds. It’s a good mix.”

The grandmother-of-four said although they do serve some people who are in food poverty, the majority of people who came on a Monday weren’t. She added: “Most people are looking for a place where they can connect with other people. I get real satisfaction when I can see that the room is full and there is a buzz of conversation. People are obviously making friendships and having company rather than being in their own.”

People of all ages are going to Connect Lunch at Oak Church in Stanningley.

Jo, who works as a midwife, said the older people enjoyed seeing the babies and toddlers playing - something they may not otherwise see.

She said people were grateful for the meal but the real appeal was making friends.

Any left over food from the luncheon club is saved to help another initiative at the church, the Friday foodbank. The scheme is part of Leeds North and West Foodbank and it is supported by the Trussell Trust, which works nationwide.

Jo said: “We get most of our food from the Trussell Trust donation system. We supplement it with the bread, typically, that we get from Tescos, which adds variety and quality to the food parcel for people.

A volunteer at the foodbank at Oak Church hands over a loaf of bread.

“We make up the food parcels as per direction from the Trussell Trust. The food from Tesco, because it is not officially part of that, is put on a table of extras. It is there for people to help themselves to if they should wish it.”

The Friday foodbank, which runs between 5pm and 7pm, helps around 40 to 50 people a week from a variety of backgrounds. Jo added: “There is quite a wide age range of people who use it. Some are families, some are single parents with young children. Others are unemployed and people on benefits. And some are right up to retirement age.”

For more information about the foodbank or the luncheon club see theoakchurch.co.uk.

HELP FROM TESCO:

Oak Church’s Monday luncheon club is supported by Tesco’s Community Food Connection scheme.

The surplus food initiative, which is run in partnership with food charity FareShare, has so far helped more than 7,000 charities and community groups.

The scheme pairs Tesco stores with local charities and community groups who get notified of unsold surplus food via a mobile app.

Jo White, from Oak Church’s People’s Team, said: “Tesco’s Community Food Connection scheme directly supports up to 30 people in the local community each week by helping us to provide a free two-course, healthy meal to those in need. We use the majority of our donations on the day that we collect them from Tesco, but anything we don’t use is kept fresh or frozen and used at the end of the week through our foodbank sessions, ensuring nothing goes to waste. We have the added advantage that we can make this available to our foodbank clients who wish to supplement their food parcel with items they would not otherwise receive.”

Nicola MacKay, community food programmes manager for Tesco, said: “We’re proud to work with Oak Church Leeds, whose dedication to the community is amazing.

“ They have already helped so many people, and we are so pleased to be supporting them so they can assist even more people in need.”