Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen puts cooking on hold to encourage people to stay at home during coronavirus lockdown
A Wearside project which has helped serve more than 70,000 meals since it was launched less than a year ago is putting a pause on its work – to keep people in their homes.
Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen was set up in July and runs a nightly session to keep those going hungry fed, with parcels also handed out to those struggling to make ends meet.
Now its leaders have decided to put its 6pm to 7pm mealtime gathering at Emmanuel Church in Hudson Road on hold, as it tries to keep people from leaving the house and gathering together.
Since social distancing measures were suggested to try and restrict the spread of COVID-19, the team has been wearing gloves and masks, with seating for those joining in its mealtimes spaced out to keep people spread out.
But as the crisis escalates and the number of deaths and cases rise, the group has decided to shut down its kitchen, with the final gathering to be held today, Wednesday, April 1.
However, it will make every effort to make sure regulars get hold of food if they are struggling and has come up with a way to keep supporting it so it is ready to go once again once the lockdown is over.
During the pause, it is also setting up a ‘Buddy’ scheme, where a WhatsApp messaging service will be set up so that people can keep in contact with the team for support and advice.
Andrea Bell, who founded the volunteer-led project, said: “We’re closing down really because we hope to reduce the amount of people moving around because we can help take 101 people walking up our street on some nights.
“We’ve given away free food on every single night since July 15, that’s an average of 8,280 portions given out every month and we don’t get any funding.
“It’s all through donations and the volunteers.
“The temporary closure because of the coronavirus is also for the health and safety of them.
“But what I think we’ll see happen is a big problem with mental health because this isn’t just a meal to people, and we already have an issue with that.
“If it wasn’t for us, some people wouldn’t leave the house, they wouldn’t talk to anyone or have anyone to say to them, ‘Hello, how are you doing, are you OK?’
“We’ve never had any trouble, everyone is so respectful and it is a pleasure to be there for them.”
More details about the kitchen and how to support it can be found via its Facebook page www.facebook.com/sunderlandcommunitysoupkitchen/