"It's not just a job for me, it's a passion and a great privilege:" Wakefield's largest pantry continues to provide for community this Christmas despite threats of closure

Centre Manager of St Catherine's Church and Centre, Lisa Grant.Centre Manager of St Catherine's Church and Centre, Lisa Grant.
Centre Manager of St Catherine's Church and Centre, Lisa Grant.

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on items purchased through this article, but that does not affect our editorial judgement.

No-one will go hungry this Christmas, insist staff and volunteers at Wakefield’s largest food pantry who have vowed to continue to support families in need despite an uncertain future.

St Catherine’s Church and Centre in Belle Vue, Wakefield has been a staple for many vulnerable people throughout the district for over 20 years.

The staff at the centre has become a beacon of light during these trying times for hundreds needing support.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And throughout the Christmas holidays and into the new year, staff are rallying round to ensure no one is alone or hungry as the cost of living continues to rocket.

St Catherine’s Church and Centre, Doncaster Road, Wakefield.St Catherine’s Church and Centre, Doncaster Road, Wakefield.
St Catherine’s Church and Centre, Doncaster Road, Wakefield.

The centre’s food bank opened in 2010, and changed into a food pantry August this year.

The change in model from a foodbank to a pantry has been proven to provide a more respectful experience.

Users pay a £5 weekly admin fee that allows them access to up to £50s worth of food at the centre’s ‘shop.’

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Those in need have the opportunity to pick and choose items they need or find themselves without whilst also providing face-to-face contact with people they can trust.

The centre's pantry offers those in need a more dignified experience.The centre's pantry offers those in need a more dignified experience.
The centre's pantry offers those in need a more dignified experience.

Centre Manager, Lisa Grant shares why the model change was so important: “During the pandemic we were concerned that we inadvertently created a dependency with people.

"This new pantry model not only gives people back the choice and planning but a little bit more of a dignified experience.

"We can also then match them up with different charities and different agencies that can actually get to the root cause of the issues, rather than just postponing it for a bit.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The food pantry currently supports over 80 people and heavily relies on donations.

Like most places, the centre has been heavily affected by the cost of living crisis leading to a decline in donations and limited funding.

"We're really struggling this year financially.” Lisa explained.

People think food banks are free to run and of course they're not in there's costs associated with housing stock volunteers expenses, staff expenses, and then our vehicles go around picking up donations and also dropping donations, so it's quite a costly thing to run.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The centre continues to appeal for donations or sponsors for their food bank so they can continue the variety of support they offer to those in need.

Lisa said: “I really worry about what will happen to the families and vulnerable people that rely on us. What would happen to them if we were to go because there's so little provision out there for people.

"The cost of food has just gone up so dramatically. Some of our families and individuals are really, really worried about how they're going to manage to keep going.

"If we weren't here, I don't know who would pick up the slack and help.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Alongside the pantry, the food bank is still available for those unable to travel to the centre, with staff and volunteers driving and dropping off doorstep donations.

The foodbank is also accessible to those in spontaneous situations that have left them struggling and unable to access or afford food.

The cost of living crisis on top of the pandemic has led to years of difficulty for thousands with many turning to foodbanks, like St Catherine’s, as a last resort.

Whilst the centre is use to high demand, the dramatic increase has put pressure on staff as donations are not fulfilling the demand.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Lisa finds herself having to dedicate time sending off funding applications alongside her usual work to try and ensure that the centre can stay afloat.

Despite an incredible team of staff and volunteers who work tirelessly, with the lack of funding and the continuing living crisis, Lisa claims that St Catherine’s faces an uncertain future.

“I think next year is going to be tough and I can't see us coming out of it anytime soon. I think it's going to get worse and worse as things go on especially because costs continue to rise at a rapid rate.

"Luckily, I've got an amazing staff team and an amazing volunteer team who got us through COVID when everything was shut down and now we’re still going. Everyone is working their absolute socks off to keep our food bank running.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Despite challenges, the centre has become a place of hope and a community centre to those who need who need a friendly face during such trying times.

Most recently, the centre has launched a ‘warm space’ in response to rising energy bills, where anyone can access free hot drinks, sockets for phone charging and a library.

The space, which is open 11am till 2pm every Tuesday and Wednesday, also includes a free children’s play area and budget priced lunches.

The space means elder and vulnerable people have access to a warm place where they can interact with others, something that may not be possible if it wasn’t for the centre.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

St Catherine’s will be open throughout the Christmas period including Christmas Day, with staff and volunteers available throughout to those struggling and in need.

The centre is also hosting a Christmas dinner for those who can not access one this festive season on Tuesday December 20.

Those in the festive spirit can head down to the centre for a day full of fun, Christmas cheer and a break from reality.

Despite uncertain times, with ideas like the ‘warm space,’ Lisa and her team continue to ensure that everyone in the district is able to access support if and when needed; and it’s something she wouldn’t change for the world.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“My job is an absolute privilege, and I am so proud of what my team does.

""It's not just a job for me, it's a passion and a great privilege. On a daily basis, I get to see some miraculous things happen.

"We hear and see some heartbreaking things but then something that absolutely wonderful happens, and we see a family taking out of debt or something happens in their life because of what they've experienced here, and that makes it all worthwhile.”

St Catherine’s welcomes any donations that can be spared via their Facebook donation portal or in site.