Green fingered students donate vegetable harvest to Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen

Homeless people and families in need of food have been able to enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables thanks to the green fingered efforts of students at the city’s university.

Students from Sunderland University’s Environmental Society have been harvesting crops from their community garden and delivering them to Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen to help provide nutritious meals for those in need.

This week saw four bags of crops including potatoes, carrots, leaks, courgettes, tomatoes and onions delivered to the charity on High Street West with another harvest set to be delivered across the Bank Holiday.

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Society president, Graeme Jobes, 47, said: “There has been a need for support for many people in the area as there has been less money from central government to help people and organisations such as the Soup Kitchen have had to step in and fill this void.

Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen founder, Andrea Bell, said it was "awesome" to receive the donations of freshly grown produce.

"As a group of students, the society wanted to do our bit to help and growing produce really helps create a connection to the cause. As well as supporting people it has really helped students in the society to feel part of the community.

"We’ve families who come direct to the garden to collect food.”

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With up to 100 mouths to feed each evening, the Soup Kitchen has used the fresh produce to prepare a range of wholesome meals such as sausage and mash, mince dumplings and vegetables and vegetable pasta.

Sunderland University students (left to right) Gurmakh Singh, Graeme Jobes, Marta De Brito and Katrina Priest harvesting their potatoes to donate to the Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen.

Charity founder Andrea Bell, 54, said: "It’s an absolutely awesome thing to do.”

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“It’s such high quality produce and it’s great to be able to put fresh produce in people’s diets. We serve around 22 homeless people but we have people attend who are on benefits, low incomes and even children.

At the peak of the pandemic, Andrea saw a noticeable increase in demand.

Students cultivating the crops which were donated to Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen.
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“With furlough and people losing their jobs the situation certainly got worse and we’ve fed around 6,000 people during the pandemic,” said Andrea.

The Soup Kitchen is open for anyone in need between 5pm-6.30pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 6pm-7pm on Sunday.

Andrea added: “Anyone is welcome – there’s no criteria. We could really do with donations of water and orange juice as there are very few water supplies for homeless people to use.”

The Environment Society hope to continue to harvest and donate produce throughout September.

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