Renowned for its magnificent church tower – the tallest in the county – the village of Probus lies between St Austell and Truro.

Supported by funds from the Diocese of Truro, the parish is now preparing to provide daily hot meals for up to 50 local children through the school holidays this year, starting at Easter.

This is an extension of a project the village church has been running since October 2020, supporting local people through the provision of a community larder.

When they started, they’d assumed that the support they provided would only be needed for a small number of people and for a short period of time – mostly during the school holidays.

“But it soon became clear that there was a significant need in the local area and two years ago we started opening our community larder four times a week,” says the coordinator of the ‘No One Goes Hungry’ initiative, Eleanor McCartney. “We’ve seen significant need ever since – from people using us once or twice to people we are supporting on a very regular basis.”

The parish collaborates with other organisations including the Truro Foodbank, the Chaos Group and the Community Larder Network.

“We were keen to avoid people having to seek a referral to come to use the larder, as this was identified as a barrier to people taking help,” Eleanor says. “We distribute supermarkets’ surplus food, which also helps reduce the stigma of people getting food help, as we target this at being eco-friendly and preventing edible food going to landfill.”

The project has seen an increase in usage especially over the last nine months, and an especially significant rise in older pensioners accessing support over the last four months, as the cost-of-living crisis has been exacerbated by steep hikes in energy prices through the winter months.

For the last three years, the initiative has provided Christmas Dinner Hampers for families and individuals.

“Again, we’ve seen numbers increasing who need this support,” Eleanor says. Last Christmas, the recipients of these hampers included about 100 local children.

“The majority of our volunteers are not church members or churchgoers,” Eleanor adds. “We started on our community forum – the local Facebook group – and have been embraced by the church and the community to support others in need locally. We have seen people supporting each other through difficult times, a community determined to help their own and a church which is seen as being a part of the community.”

The latest phase of the project will offer families the opportunity to come in each week during school holidays to pick up a week’s worth of nutritious reheatable ready meals for their kids.

“What started it all off was Marcus Rashford’s campaign,” Eleanor explains. “Everyone was saying on social media that it was awful that no one was doing anything, and so I suggested that maybe we should stop whingeing and start doing something.

“We’re trying to help people who’re in a situation that isn’t of their own making, and which any of us could be in – we’re trying to help people at a time when they most need help.”

The gratitude from the local people who use the services of their community larder is very clear, whether it is during the festive season or throughout the year.

“I had a good cry yesterday unpacking my food,” said one. “It’s meant I can give my little family the best Christmas Day.”

“I was starting to worry about empty cupboards but luckily you came to the rescue,” said another.

“People are so kind,” said a third, “Thank you and your volunteers for running the project. It’s helped me all year.”

“Embraced by our community”

Amanda eloquently tells the story of her own first experience of the initiative:

“So today I actually grew a pair and went to our much needed community larder. I was nervous I’ll admit it. Despite having so much support from Eleanor and her team prior to the larder, this seemed like a bigger step to take.

“I was so nervous when I got up, I even put a dress on and mascara (anyone who knows me will know this is very out of character!). I thought of many excuses (due to pride and embarrassment) right up until I got to the car park.

“That took a while but then I put my big girl pants on and ventured in – wow.

“What a warm welcome, no judgement there (not sure what I was expecting but I was delighted by the welcome) – then I was shown around and left to it.

“I selected what I needed and felt so free to wander around. As I left, I got a friendly wave from the lovely supporters and went on my way.

“I had the feeling of total support, not the support you feel you have to feed back into, not the support where you feel judged. I simply felt happy and extremely grateful.

“So I guess my message is, don’t be afraid. Feel nervous, but don’t let it stop you. Experience this wonderful gift we have been blessed with and use it. You won’t feel ashamed, you won’t feel sad or upset, you will feel embraced by our community.

“Thank you to all involved, you have created a wonderful giving environment and experience.”