Covid-19 pushed church free meals into decline – Bermuda
Church-run food banks have seen a significant drop in demand after the pressures of coping with the economic crisis sparked by Covid-19.
However, the number of people still needing help is “significant” with the pandemic highlighting many people’s fragile finances.
David Thompson, who heads the food programme at the Church of Scotland’s Christ Church in Warwick, said that the church went from the preparation of 3,500 meals a week at the start of the pandemic to about 1,200 meals a week at present.
But he admitted that demand had gone on for much longer than anticipated – and caused some church volunteers to quit because of burnout.
Mr Thompson said: “Many volunteers had been at this for a year and wondered if there was an end in sight.”
He estimated that the programme had provided 130,000 meals since the start of the pandemic.
Mr Thompson said that the church now offered meals four times a week instead of every day and tried to target people in “absolute need”.
He said: “We did find at one point that people would say ‘if you want a free meal go to Christ Church’, so we had to do something to stop that.
“We did a bit more digging into what the need was and made sure we were reaching the right people without prying too much into their private lives.”
He said the church’s involvement in a 2020 meals programme organised by Butterfield Bank and The Loren hotel had helped spark a high demand for assistance.
Mr Thomson added the pandemic had thrown a spotlight on to how fragile financial security was for many people on the island.
He said: “There were always people in need, but I don’t think many of us were as aware of it as we are now, so I think through Covid we’ve learnt that people are still struggling economically.”
He added: “It’s great to hear people who received food come to us later not only just to say thank you but to tell us ‘I’ve found a job now and I don’t need your meals any more’.
“That really warms the heart.”
Dora Baker, the acting director of Seventh-day Adventist community services on the island, said that the demand on its meals programme had more than halved since the pandemic first hit.