St Anne's & St Joseph's RC Parish

——  Accrington • Diocese of Salford  ——

St Anne's & St Joseph's
RC Parish

—  Accrington • Diocese of Salford  —


Food Bank

Many thanks to all who supported our appeal for the Food Bank this weekend. A total of £429.67 was raised. Many thanks also to those who have donated food in the boxes for this purpose at the back of our churches. Thank you for your kindness. Please continue to support the food bank.

In case you missed it here is the talk that was given at Masses this weekend.

Living in the UK, we can often think of poverty as something that happens beyond our borders. We’ve spent decades bombarded by images of African children, starving and covered in flies. Eastern European children left in orphanages after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Images of St Teresa of Calcutta, surrounded by the sick and dying. That’s poverty, we think.

Mother Teresa saw this in her life. People would often ask her, with good intentions, what they could do to help the people of Kolkata. To them, she said “Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta.”

My name is Rose James. You might recognise me as a fellow parishioner, but I’m here today as a board member of Accrington Christians Together, or ACT, to talk about our Food Bank

A few months ago, with the vital support and hard work of the SVP, we started food collection boxes in the back of both churches. Before I go any further I would like to thank each and every person who has dropped a donation into those boxes, no matter how big or small.

Every Wednesday at 1.30pm, St James Church opens its doors to anyone who is struggling to feed themselves or their family. We take their name, give them a ticket with a number on, and offer them a brew. A brew doesn’t fix everything, but it helps. Unlike some food banks, we don’t operate based on referrals from GPs, schools or social workers. We don’t require proof of residency, benefit sanctions or income. New service users are interviewed about their needs and circumstances, but the only proof they are asked for is proof of an address within the Accrington area and the number of children they have. Not requiring the same checks as other food banks means we are able to help those who the system has left behind, such as those who have been trafficked into the UK and women fleeing domestic violence.

After this interview is conducted and a person’s needs are assessed, they are given a ticket with a number and asked to wait within the church for their food to be packed. While they are waiting, volunteers sit and talk with people about their lives and their situations. We don’t pry or interrogate. They might feel ashamed to talk to people in their lives about how they’re struggling, but they’re grateful to pour out their hearts to a stranger who doesn’t judge them. We ask if we can pray for them, or if they’d like to pray with us, and I’ve been so surprised by how often people say yes. Sometimes, people say no, and we don’t push it – we’re there to feed them, not to proselytise. Having said that, we have been asked for bibles, for details of services, for contact details of priests and pastors and vicars, all without pushing. Something about seeing Christians putting their faith into action really inspires people. More than one lapsed Catholic has picked up their dusty old rosary after using the food bank.

Sometimes, there is a 5 minute talk from an ACT member for those who are interested in why we do what we do. That is the number one question we receive from people – why are you doing this, why are you feeding people, why do you do all this for free? And we answer them, truthfully – because we are Christians, and this is what we do. Because you are in need, and we were called by your Father to serve you. Because you were hungry, and we had food to give. In short, because we see the face of Jesus Christ in everyone who walks in that door. Sober, drunk, angry, sad, calm, quiet, loud, high on goodness knows what – we see the face of Jesus Christ in each of them. For as Christ himself said in the book of Matthew, whatever we do to the least of our brothers, we do to Him.

As I say, though, we are there to feed people practically, and not just spiritually. Volunteers pick and pack food parcels according to family sizes and dietary requirements from our food stores. These food stores are made up of donations from collections like ours, along with fresh food that we purchase weekly with the monetary donations we receive. These monetary donations are vital, as they allow us to fill in the gaps in our food stores. They also mean we can purchase the items that people don’t think to donate.

The system we run at the moment is that once a month, each family is entitled to a full food parcel. Currently, this includes bread, UHT milk, Teabags, fresh fruit and vegetables according to availability, tinned goods like soup, beans, meat and fish, pasta or rice, breakfast cereal, biscuits, a jar of jam, eggs and some kind of frozen meat or fish. We also offer hygiene products, toilet rolls and cat and dog food to those who ask for it.

We are currently able to give a basic “top-up” parcel weekly to those who have already had their full parcel but are still in need. Additionally, we offer unlimited tea, coffee, hot chocolate, squash and water to anyone who comes to the food bank, whether or not they need a food parcel. Often, people are grateful just to have a place indoors to sit, and chat with people. As St Teresa of Calcutta said, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved”.

So far, so good. But we have a growing problem.

Since the beginning of this year, the number of families we help has grown by 81%. If it continues as it has, demand for our foodbank will have doubled in 2023 alone. Over the summer holidays, we had consistently record breaking levels of demand as families struggled to feed their children. On one occasion this summer, we completely ran out of food.

As I’m sure you’ve all noticed, the cost of food and other basics has shot up in recent years. At the moment, the difference between what we spend each month and the money we have coming in is increasing. Month on month, we have been running at a deficit since the end of last year. So far we have been able to cover this shortfall with our existing funds, but this isn’t sustainable.

So – what can you do to help?

Firstly, Father Francis has kindly allowed us to take a second collection today, so I will be at the back of church today collecting whatever you can give. If you are able to give a regular monthly donation, however small, we will be collecting names and phone numbers of anyone interested and myself or another ACT volunteer will contact you to set that up.

Secondly, please continue to donate food using the boxes at the back of both churches. You have really been extraordinarily generous already, so just keep doing what you’re doing. At the moment, we are happy to take donations of anything, but there are a few items we are in particular need of. These include biscuits, tinned fruit and veg, tinned soup and tinned potatoes. Hygiene items are also appreciated, particularly toilet roll.

If you have some spare time on a Wednesday between 1pm and 3pm, we are always looking for new volunteers to pick and transport food, to pray with people, to interview new service users, make cups of tea, or to act as Stewards. If you’re interested in helping in any way, even if you’re not sure how, speak to me at the back of church and we’ll arrange for you to come and have a look around and figure out where you fit in.

If you eat eggs, you likely have been throwing away the cardboard egg boxes. We use cut up cardboard egg boxes to give out small quantities of eggs in our food parcels, so if you have a clean egg box, instead of binning it, bring it along to church and pop it in the box. And if you’re anything like me, you’re always forgetting your reusable bags at the supermarket and having to pay 30p for a plastic one. We use these strong plastic bags to give out our food parcels. At the moment, we have to buy these in, taking up valuable funds that could be spent on food. So, I invite you to donate your plastic bags.

Lastly, this is a way that everyone in this church can help, regardless of finances, whether they eat eggs, or whether they buy plastic bags. Pray. Pray for the service users, pray for the volunteers, pray that people will donate what they can, pray that people don’t forget about us when times are good or ignore us when times are hard.

I’m going to return to St Teresa of Calcutta for a moment. In life, she took on a kind of mythology. Her name became a byword for goodness and charity. We often act as if charity is something that is only given by these impossibly perfect people, not us. Not me. If I only had more money, then I’d give more away. If I only had more time, I’d volunteer more. If I only had more influence, I could convince others to help. To this, Mother Teresa herself said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Friends, let us do small things with great love. Thank you.


St Anne’s, Cobham Road,
Accrington, BB5 2AD.
Tel: 01254 232 920

St Joseph’s, Belgarth Road,
Accrington, BB5 6AH.


Rev Fr Francis Wadsworth (parish priest)
Rev Fr Robert Livesey (retired)

Parish Administrator

Mrs Siobhan Wood
Tel: 01254 232 920

Office Hours

Mon: 8:30am to 12:30pm
Tues, Thurs: 8:30am to 1:30pm