Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen: meet people who help the most needy

The kitchen received a visit from Sunderland AFC managers Lee Johnson and Melanie Reay

Volunteers at Sunderland Soup Kitchen are joined by Sunderland men and women managing Lee Johnson and Mel Reay

In a corner of SunderlandThere’s a group of people you’re lucky to have around if you’re having a hard time.

The people behind Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen have been helping those most in need in the city for nearly three years.

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I went along to meet some of the people working hard behind the project at their warehouse.

It became evident almost immediately that each of them was the most caring and compassionate person around.

Volunteers at the kitchen provide meals to people from all over Sunderland

Andrea Bell is the coordinator at the kitchen.

She told NationalWorld all about what was needed to keep the project going, and how it wouldn’t have been possible without the great team.

Andrea says: “The food we hand out is homey, cozy, using really good ingredients just because we know people who come can’t afford things like this.

“People have zero-hour contracts and jobs are uncertain. We help a lot of people like this, sometimes they have a job and sometimes they don’t.

“If people come looking for food, we don’t ask why they are here, we just ask ‘what do you want’. It is very dignified.

“If a person is going to stand in a long line of maybe 60 people to buy food, that shows they are hungry. They’re all-weather highlights, so why are we scrutinizing them? They just want food.”

One of the biggest problems with people who come to eat is wanting someone to talk to, as Andrea adds: “One Sunday, I went there and we had some people in line an hour early and I asked them. Why did they come so early? .

“Some of them haven’t talked to anyone all day so when they get in line they will be able to chat with others. That might be the only conversation they have all day.

“Loneliness is a huge problem, and it’s not just about food.

“This place started as a small idea in ‘Daisy’ [the takeaway van] and it was pinched on the first day.

“Then my whole world ended. A huge social media campaign was started to figure it out and it worked. It was found but it was completely stripped, but we got it back on the road again thanks to some help.

“We were growing faster than the truck early on, so we had a little church to work with, and we grew longer than that.

Soup Kitchen’s warehouse space

“Now, we have this place just to store anything and everything. We have a pitcher to help people get through the cold weather.

“We plan to go out with just hot water and cuppa soup that way, with the pots, all ready.

“Food wise, we are not a giant food bank. This one is mainly for families. When they arrived, they were given a trolley and picked up what they needed and went home with about 10 bags full.

“These families will go two or three weeks with the items they have here, they won’t get far with just one bag.

“We have carrots and potatoes here and stock up on pots that we can give out to people to make soup so they can make a batch to make more than one meal.

“All of this is possible thanks to the amazing team we have here. If Carlsberg made teams, it would be this one.

“Everybody needs a helping hand at some point in their life, and we are just a facility that gives that hand when people need it.

“We’ll give people tips on how to make a meal like ‘if you add pasta to the meatballs, you can make something really delicious’. It’s just things like this that show people that they matter and show them that you care.

“We only have two paid workers and that is from almost three years of existence. Each of us worked for free. Everyone here does it with their heart.

“There are almost 60 of us here.

“We also have two allocations, we’re really excited to get started with this. The storms damaged the things we built but everything was repairable and no one was hurt, that’s the most important thing.

“In my little vision, I wanted to be at the center of the edible flowers used in cooking. Right now, we’re growing pink blueberries and yellow raspberries because we want people to be able to try different things.

“We’ve got warehouse, distribution, clothing service, takeout and now we’re selling furniture and the money goes back to our work.

“We do garage sales, last year we did two and these add up to around £2,800 just because people want to support us.

The soup kitchen cafe in Sunderland was cleaned up beautifully by the team

“We spend £5,000 a month on food, but thanks to the fundraising we have a little more to spend.

“Things are going well, it’s been incredibly hard work but it’s worth it. We had this little fruit and as you can see, it has grown into this big tree.

“It could only be because of everyone here. I have big ideas but they wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have all these people.

“The kitchen, before we took over, was a butcher shop and it was messy. There’s blood on the wall and everything.

“It took three industrial cleanings and three Covid cleanings, for a total of six, to reach a standard where you can cook in a kitchen.

“It was an empty shell with a freezer with no doors and nothing else. Just an empty room.

“We talked to a company about it and they gave us a free kitchen and we had everything so it was easy to move if we moved out.

“The kitchen cost us £42,000 and it all paid off, it just shows what you can do when you put your mind to it.

“From a small kitchen in a church to a huge kitchen with lots of space, this is extraordinary.

The medical center is being set up at the Soup Kitchen warehouse

“There are no big signs saying ‘Soup Kitchen’. We changed our name to Alberts and we had different hoodies we wore there.

“This sounds like you’re going to a takeout rather than into a soup kitchen.”

Andrea showed me around the back of the warehouse building and the two rooms that were crucial to the work they did.

“We will set up a medical center here. We have a hairdresser, pedicurist, manicurist and dentist who will come in free of charge.

“We have a kitchen and a meeting room upstairs that were completed through hard work and some generous donations.

“You won’t sleep here,” Andrea turned on the light in the purple-blue conference room.

I have never felt more welcome in a position in my entire life.

The soup kitchen helpers mark some of the best and kindest people you could ever wish to meet, and the work they do will help restore any faith in humanity you may have. body was lost.

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Huynh Nguyen

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