People in Smethwick will be able to save on their weekly shopping bills, thanks to a new project that officially opens today, 21 January.

Smethwick CAN has set up the Smethwick pantry, to be run and used by local people, at Smethwick Library.

The project is the latest in the growing Your Local Pantry network nationally, and the third in the Midlands.

Pantries are membership-based food clubs that enable people to access food at a small fraction of its usual supermarket price, improving household food security and freeing up more money for other essential household costs such as rent and utilities. The weekly fee at Smethwick is £4.00, for which members will be able to choose ten items, with a total value in excess of £20.

Membership opened in October and has already exceeded the initial target. Organisers hoped to have 100 members within six months but hit that in a week and are now nearing 150.

Christina Murray, the Food Hub Manager for Smethwick CAN, said: 

“Smethwick Pantry has been a great success, providing good quality food to local people struggling to make ends meet.

“This is the first Pantry in the country to be based in a library. This has been a great benefit to both the library and the pantry. Footfall into the library has increased and the location for the pantry is ideal as it is directly on the main high street with easy access to public transport.  We have formed an excellent working relationship with the library staff who have all been very supportive of the pantry.”

One of Smethwick Pantry’s customers, who visits every week, has said it is a real lifeline for her and her family. She enjoys visiting the pantry as the volunteers are friendly and make her feel welcome.  It’s nicer than visiting a food bank because she can choose the food herself and pay towards the cost rather than be given a hand out.

Pantries are sustainable, long-term, community-led solutions that can loosen the grip of food poverty in a particular neighbourhood. They can be part of a progressive journey to help people move beyond foodbank use, or can help reduce a family’s need for a foodbank.

They provide members with more choice over the food they get than is possible at food banks, and are controlled by the members, strengthening the community’s ability to prevent food poverty or to progress out of food crisis.

Pantries source their food from a variety of sources, such as supermarket surplus via food recycling charity Fareshare, and by developing relationships with local food businesses who offer surplus food, which helps to reduce food waste and puts savings in the hands of people who are struggling to cover their weekly outgoings, potentially creating a virtuous circle.

Stockport Homes and the charity Church Action on Poverty are supporting the roll-out of pantries across the UK, under the banner of Your Local Pantry, after initial projects in Stockport were shown to have brought social, financial and health benefits including reducing isolation, averting food poverty and improving local people’s mental health. An impact report last year found pantry members had saved £650 a year on average on their shopping bills, and that every £1 invested in pantries generated £6 in social value.

Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, said: “We know the Pantry model brings many benefits to communities up and down the country, helping to loosen the grip of poverty. They nurture community, alleviate isolation and reduce people’s food bills, to ease the pressure. It’s fantastic to see the first library-based pantry opening, showing the diversity and flexibility of the project.”

Anybody interested in setting up a Your Local Pantry in their community is invited to email gillian@church-poverty.org.uk

News release: Smethwick gets its first Your Local Pantry, to help tackle food poverty

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

A decade of action on poverty

Reflecting on the first two years of Food Power

Annual review 2018-19

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

A decade of action on poverty

We are looking for an experienced practitioner to facilitate peer learning amongst churches in Greater Manchester.

The post is initially on a three-year basis, reviewed after 12 months.

7 hours per week, to be worked flexibly

£27,905 – £32,029 pro rata

25 days’ annual leave pro rata

Based at Church Action on Poverty office, Salford. Working across Greater Manchester and occasional travel nationally.

Subject to negotiation, the work could also be carried out on a freelance basis, paid on an appropriate daily rate, equivalent to the gross cost of a paid staff member.

Church Action on Poverty is committed to promoting a diverse and inclusive community – a place where we can all be ourselves and succeed on merit. We offer a range of family-friendly, inclusive employment policies, flexible working arrangements, and services to support staff from different backgrounds.

About the programme

Our Church on the Margins programme in Greater Manchester seeks to promote the idea of a ‘Church of the Poor/Church on the Margins’: a church of justice, inclusivity and welcome. The Church on the Margins programme will be delivered in conjunction with the Methodist Manchester and Stockport District, the Centre for Theology and Justice based at Luther King House and other ecumenical partners. It will develop a network for people who are involved in church activism, estate ministry, people from church congregations, inclusive church, alternative church and those who want to make church a more welcoming place for all.

Over the next three years we will establish and facilitate a series of peer learning sets, to bring together groups of churches and projects across Greater Manchester, to explore together what it means to be a ‘church of the poor’, how to respond lovingly to their local context, and how to fully engage in Christian within marginalised communities. They will share stories of how their faith informs their action, and their action deepens their faith.

By the end of the three years we will have developed a robust evidence base, illustrating what it means to be a ‘church of the poor/church on the margins’ and effective models of Christian discipleship in a range of contexts of poverty and marginalisation across Greater Manchester. That evidence will motivate other people and churches within the region to adopt similar models of mission and praxis in their own contexts.

  • Each year, we will recruit two cohorts of six to eight churches, groups and projects, including people with experience of poverty as full participants.
  • Each cohort will include groups drawn from local churches, projects and individuals engaged in social action, including a range of ecumenical partners.
  • Each cohort will participate in a day workshop, using the pastoral cycle to help them listen more deeply to marginalised people, understand the communities where they live and work, reflect theologically on their social action, and plan further action.
  • We will work with Luther King House and others training ministers and lay workers, to arrange placements in projects within the community of praxis.
  • We will organise an annual reflection day for 20-30 people with: stories from local churches and projects; theological reflection; and workshops to discern shared learning.
  • We will have shared these findings with the wider church across Greater Manchester and nationally: both with other practitioners, and with church leaders and those setting policy and making decisions in circuits, districts, and other church institutions. Church bodies of all denominations, in the region and at national level, will have a better understanding of what it means to be a ‘church of the poor’ in practice; and of the value and importance of investing resources such as finance, ministry and lay training to pursue this goal.
  • We will have established a model for building communities and engaging churches that can be replicated in other regions – by Methodist districts and circuits, and by equivalent bodies in other denominations.

Key role for the Facilitator

The key tasks of the facilitator within this process are:

  • Establish and facilitate two Church on the Margins peer learning sets per annum in Greater Manchester, each comprising 6-8 churches/groups.
  • Plan and facilitate a reflection workshop for each learning set, drawing on existing Church Action on Poverty resources/approaches and any other appropriate participatory learning methods.
  • Co-facilitate an annual reflection day for 20-30 people with: stories from local churches and projects; theological reflection; and workshops to discern shared learning.
  • Work with other members of the Church Action on Poverty staff team to gather stories and case studies from local churches/participants to contribute to wider learning as to what it means to be a Church on the Margins.
  • Contribute to wider learning as to what it means to be a Church on the Margins through writing, participating in workshops, giving talks etc, as time and opportunities permit.

The application deadline is 5pm on 23 January.

News release: Smethwick gets its first Your Local Pantry, to help tackle food poverty

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

A decade of action on poverty

Reflecting on the first two years of Food Power

Annual review 2018-19

A Good Society? We failed

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

What does it mean to be a church on the margins?

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

A decade of action on poverty

Our partners at the 'Life on the Breadline' project are looking for PhD candidates to take part in their research. Details below.

Theology, poverty and the common good in ‘breadline Britain’: An analysis of Christian activism since the 2008 financial crash
Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Start date: September 2020

Wanted – exceptional doctoral candidates to undertake trailblazing, transformative research alongside outstanding early-career researchers.

Coventry University (CU) is inviting applications from suitably-qualified graduates for a fully-funded PhD studentship.

This doctoral (PhD) project has been devised and developed by a leading early-career researcher at Coventry University. The Trailblazer Scheme provides doctoral researchers with an innovative and dynamic intellectual space in which to undertake transformative research, whilst fully supported by a team of experienced supervisors.

Details of the PhD project

Following the 2008 financial crash inequality grew faster in the UK than in any other G7 nation. As the state has withdrawn during the ‘age of austerity’ Christian churches and NGOs have become key players in the struggle to defeat structural poverty. Whilst Christian engagement with food poverty, low pay, housing justice, child poverty and personal debt has been widely studied within the social sciences, there have been no empirically-based theological analyses of such anti-poverty activism until now. This Doctoral research project breaks new ground in political theology. Rooting theological analysis in detailed, multi-site primary research and benefiting from collaboration with experienced researchers from the ESRC-funded ‘Life on the Breadline’ project, the successful candidate will analyse the nature, scope and impact of Christian responses to UK poverty and the theological values that underpin such activism. This multidisciplinary Doctoral research will address issues that are of current academic and political importance. It will develop a theological analysis of faith-based activism that will generate impact within political theology and the social sciences and will generate new insights that will resource the practice of anti-poverty activists across the UK.

Benefits

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

The successful candidate will also benefit from participation in the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations’ Doctoral Training Course, involvement in the Centre’s Faith and Peaceful Relations research group and involvement in Centre research seminars. The successful candidate will benefit from mentoring by and collaboration alongside experienced ‘Life on the Breadline’ social researchers and political theologians, including Dr Chris Shannahan, Professor Paul Weller and Dr Stephanie Denning.

Candidate specification

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.
  • A Masters’ degree in a relevant subject, or equivalent professional experience would be desirable PLUS the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within 3.5 years
  • a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

Click here for further details

Additional items for candidate specification

  1. An understanding of key themes within political theology
  2. A familiarity with faith-based anti-poverty activism
  3. An interest in the use of qualitative social research methods
  4. A willingness to undertake fieldwork alongside faith-based organisations
  5. A commitment to collaborative study
  6. A commitment to applied research that impacts on grassroots practitioners

How to apply

To find out more about the project please contact Dr Chris Shannahan.

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

Funding notes

English-resident UK and EU students, or EU students moving to England for a PhD, who are not in receipt of Research Council funding or other direct government funding can apply to borrow up to £25,000 to help cover the cost of their PhD tuition fees. 
Click here for more details.

  • Tax-free stipend per annum, paid at UKRI rates
  • Tuition fees (UK/EU/International)
  • CTPSR Research development allowance of £1,000 per annum

News release: Smethwick gets its first Your Local Pantry, to help tackle food poverty

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

A decade of action on poverty

Reflecting on the first two years of Food Power

Annual review 2018-19

A Good Society? We failed

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

What does it mean to be a church on the margins?

Edgelands

Why End UK Hunger?

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

A decade of action on poverty

When you read your Bible, use the questions on this bookmark to help you reflect on what you read.

You may find that the scriptures surprise you, overturn your assumptions – and challenge you to take action to tackle poverty and injustice in the world today.

If you would like us to send you a printed bookmark, please email us.

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

The Bible shows us again and again that God is on the side of the poor and the oppressed. People on the margins.

In a thread that runs through all of scripture, God is concerned first and foremost with people who have been excluded from society by poverty, oppression and injustice. Laws like Jubilee in the Old Testament are designed to ensure that no one is left behind and exploited… The prophets stand up constantly against the rich and powerful who would oppress people in poverty… Mary sings of a God who has “brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly”… Jesus says “Blessed are you who are poor … But woe to you who are rich.”

But too often, when we read scripture in our churches, we forget that perspective. We focus on other aspects of the story, or we become so familiar with the text that we don’t notice the challenging things it has to say to us.

The five Bible studies in Untold Stories focus on the Gospel of Matthew, and highlight different perspectives. We look at Jesus’ teachings and miracles through the eyes of minor characters in the margins of the story. We remind ourselves that the original audiences for Jesus’ teaching, and for the Gospels, were primarily people who were themselves marginalised by poverty, living under military occupation.

The five studies in this resource look at different passages. Most of them also include an ‘unheard voice’ – a piece of creative writing, imagining the perspective of a minor or marginalised character in the story.

We hope that these Bible studies will help you find fresh perspectives on scripture, and challenge you to put your faith into action in the world today.

 

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

Where did the 2010s go? Whoosh, just like that, another whole new decade is upon us.

Ten years lie ahead like blank canvases or unfilled journals. 3,653 days that we can shape, use and hopefully enjoy.

We know our priorities as we begin the decade, but only time will tell what new issues, challenges and opportunities arise as we continue trying to loosen poverty’s grip. Before the 2020s gather pace, however, allow us to pause, and briefly look back at some of the work you helped to fund, enable and support in the 2010s. Thank you!

 

2010

We began with a pleasing result from some of our earlier work. The Methodist Church and the Church of Scotland committed to support the Living Wage, helping ensure that people’s incomes are enough for them to live on.

Our ‘Rip-off TV’ action (pictured) persuaded the chief executive of a high-cost lender to sit down with his customers, listen to them, and join them in working for more responsible practices in the sector. Many aspects of our economy exacerbate poverty, charging poor people more for goods and services. We challenge this wherever we can.

2010
2011

Our Close The Gap campaign was launched, and thousands of you got involved, Giving, Acting and Praying to tackle inequality. We focused on fair taxes, fair prices and a fair say.

Working with partners near our own offices, our Salford Apprentice programme supported local people with experience of poverty to become community leaders. Those involved have since launched and spearheaded fascinating and powerful work of their own.

2011
2012

We and Christian Aid took a double-decker Tax Justice Bus around the UK, mobilising people to campaign against tax dodging.

There was more good news on the Living Wage, with support from the General Synod of the Church of England and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

2012
2013

We knew hunger was a growing issue in the UK, but it had been hard to quantify. Working with Oxfam, our joint Walking The Breadline research made front-page news as a pioneering and vital look at the full picture. Only by fully understanding such issues can we ensure we tackle the root causes effectively.

That Christmas, our “Britain Isn’t Eating” poster struck a chord across the country and went viral online.

We undertook a fascinating visit to India, which led to the creation of our Self-Reliant Groups project, small groups that can save and invest together, and provide mutual support.

We published the Charter to End the Payday Loan Rip-off in partnership with the Centre for Responsible Credit and Paul Blomfield MP. More than 40 MPs signed up to the Charter at the launch event in the House of Commons. This helped persuade the Financial Conduct Authority to crack down on payday lending and bring in new regulations, which led to Wonga and others paying more than £50m redress to customers.

2013
2014

The food focus continued. We began building partnerships among churches, charities, academics and others, to build an alliance that could explain, challenge and ultimately end food poverty. These were the foundations of the End Hunger campaign.

Many church leaders have embraced the campaign, and that year we worked with vicar Keith Hebden (pictured), as he fasted for the whole of Lent to raise awareness of the crisis.

2014
2015

We worked with the Joint Public Issues team on the Rethink Benefit Sanctions campaign. Sanctioning, which often tipped people into destitution, has since reduced and has been proven to be damaging.

Our Real Benefits Street project provided a true and balanced alternative to the sensationalist TV coverage, persuading one TV producer to meet our participants and listen to their concerns about stigma and inaccuracy.

We listened to churches around the UK, so their visions of what makes a Good Society could influence our planning.

2015
2016

We worked with the National Union of Journalists to produce new reporting guidelines, launched the End Hunger UK campaign, and launched our Church on The Margins work, exploring the challenge by Pope Francis and others to build a ‘poor church that is for the poor’.

2016
2017

Having researched ways for communities to tackle the Poverty Premium in their neighbourhood, we launched the Your Local Pantry network nationally. Pantries alleviate poverty by reducing shopping bills, allowing other essential costs to be met. Research has shown they are having a fantastic social, economic and health impact.

Our Voices From The Margins project, putting people with experience of poverty at the forefront of social and political conversations, was launched. More than 120 people have contributed so far.

2017
2018

We exposed the scale of cuts to localised crisis support in England. When people are swept into poverty, there must be lifelines to reach for, but most have been removed or neglected.

We launched our Scripture from the Margins Bible studies, helping churches and church-goers to think more deeply about, and respond more effectively to, poverty and injustice.

2018
2019

Our Food Power programme shifted the narrative around food and poverty, and helped strengthen local campaigning. Young people we worked with in Lancashire appeared on national TV and spoke truth to power, when they met politicians and took part in the national Children’s Future Food Inquiry.

Hundreds of people embraced a week of action in October, calling on the Government to Act Now To End UK Hunger.

2019

Thank you for all your support. What will the 2020s bring? Watch this space…

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

A decade of action on poverty

Sustain, our partners in Food Power, share their learning from the year 2 independent evaluation of the programme.

Food Power supports food poverty alliances around the country to develop a sustainable response to food poverty and its root causes. Our independent evaluators from Cardiff University have now conducted their second annual evaluation of the programme. We are grateful to the team and all the alliances and individuals who fed into the evaluation.

We’re pleased that the year 2 evaluation continues to identify many positive findings, as well as some helpful reflections for us. The evaluation team presented us with four key questions to consider as we deliver the programme and we provide our responses below.

  • What do alliances aim to achieve by involving experts by experience?
  • What should reasonably be expected of them? 
  • What can they expect in return? 
  • How can Food Power showcase to other programmes and initiatives on how to empower experts by experience?
Food Power conference 2019

We will publish guidance for alliances and others working with experts by experience in the New Year. This will cover a wide range of aspects of involving people with lived experience of food poverty. We will work with Barbora Alderova who has just begun a PhD at Cardiff University. Her research will be on Food Power and the role of people with lived experience of food insecurity, specifically who gets involved, how and what happens (or not) next.

 

How can Food Power best support alliances working with particular but overlapping challenges?

We have published our briefing on challenges faced by rural areas and the response in different rural areas. We will continue to work with alliances based in rural areas and gather learning from our shared experiences. We continue to be mindful of the interactions between food insecurity and characteristics such as disability, gender, ethnicity and age and will continue to encourage alliances to consider how they can respond to the needs of particular groups.

What are alliances achieving and delivering that would not otherwise be happening? Are alliances able to articulate the difference they have made on the ground? How does this come together to make a difference nationally?

We continue to support eight alliances to develop tools for assessing their impact. The eight alliances will come together in early 2020 to assess progress and help us finalise what we can share more widely with the network and beyond. We aim to publish materials in the first half of 2020 and will actively promote these resources. As we deliver the second half of the programme we will continue to share learning from the network and feed this into national policy discussions.

 

What role can/should Food Power play in supporting alliances to work in an ever-more challenging contexts, in which demand for local services continues to outstrip capacity and resources? If there is no prospect of this easing this, what type of national programme will be most valuable in future?

Our local evaluation tools mentioned above should help alliances to identify progress, even where the best case is ‘standing still’ given the ongoing pressures on household and public sector budgets. In terms of future activities beyond the lifetime of the current programme, we are currently thinking through the questions we need to bring to the network in order to think through future plans. We are committed to involving the network as we think through any future plans.    


Sharing learning and experiences is a fundamental part of Food Power and evaluation and reflection is a core part of this. Please do contact Simon Shaw at Sustain if you have any thoughts on the programme to date and/or our future activities.

News release: Smethwick gets its first Your Local Pantry, to help tackle food poverty

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

A decade of action on poverty

Reflecting on the first two years of Food Power

Annual review 2018-19

A Good Society? We failed

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

What does it mean to be a church on the margins?

Edgelands

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

A decade of action on poverty

An open letter to Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, from Church Action on Poverty supporter Liz Delafield.

Cast your mind back to 2015. Churches together in Britain and Ireland had asked churches to  discuss with their local communities the question ‘What makes a good society?’ From these discussions they produced the 2020 vision. The expectation that the churches, other religious bodies and community organisations would work together with our elected representatives to build a good society in which all could thrive. It was where we aspired to be by the year 2020.  

This is what it said:

  • All citizens have access to enough income to enable them to live with dignity, either through paid work or through a properly functioning welfare safety net.
  • Reasonably priced homes where people can flourish are available for everyone who needs them and there is a reliable safety net for all homeless people.
  • All children and young people are enabled to live fulfilling flourishing lives, their contributions are valued, and they are enabled to grow and achieve their potential.
  • An economy that is in service to every person irrespective of their wealth or the market value of their labour; including robust action to clamp down on tax dodging.
  • UK greenhouse gas emissions are falling rapidly, and the Government has helped to secure a global climate deal that limits global temperature rises to 2 degrees.

This was not meant to be an exhaustive list. For example, the local conversation that I was involved in wanted to add ‘There is a thriving NHS which meets the needs of all.’

So with only just over a month until 2020, and another general election looming, this seems a good time to take stock. How did we do?

Quite simply, we failed. We did not build a good society – or even make steps towards it. If anything, we have moved further from our vision.

The implementation of Universal Credit and PIP assessment has led to greater hardship for many vulnerable people. An increasing number of people rely on food banks to get by. Homelessness is still evident in our communities. Most school budgets have been cut in real terms, reducing children’s and young people’s’ opportunities to thrive and achieve their potential. Cuts in local government have made youth services almost non existent in some areas. Young people’s mental health is an increasing concern. Tax dodging is still prevalent. As extinction rebellion campaigners remind us, the climate is in crisis and we have been far too slow to respond.

We failed – big time.

So what did we do with our vision? Did we hold it up as a beacon? Did we shout from our pulpits and to our communities “Look, this what we said. What are we doing about it?” No, we didn’t. We filed it away as yesterday’s news, a sound bite for the 2015 election.

Building the Good Society, or what Christians call the Kingdom of God, is not a short-term project. Neither is it only for politicians. It is a long term task that involves us all.

The General Election will take place during Advent. This is traditionally a time of waiting and preparation. But what are we waiting for? Not for a political leader, but for a vulnerable refugee child. A child who reminds us that leadership is about love and service. This is the way to a good society.

Let us remain faithful to our vision. No matter what happens in the election, let’s keep holding our politicians and churches to account. None of the people standing in this election is our saviour. We simply need to decide who would best love and serve with us as we strive towards a good society.  The road is long, and sometimes difficult, but as the advent and Christmas stories reminded us, Christ walks with us. 


​This post first appeared on Liz Delafield’s blog.

News release: Smethwick gets its first Your Local Pantry, to help tackle food poverty

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

A decade of action on poverty

Reflecting on the first two years of Food Power

Annual review 2018-19

A Good Society? We failed

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

What does it mean to be a church on the margins?

Edgelands

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

A decade of action on poverty