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Coronavirus: Newbury charities Loose Ends and Soup Kitchen working to feed the vulnerable

"We won't close unless it's martial law"

John Herring

John Herring


01635 886633

Coronavirus: Newbury charities Loose Ends and Soup Kitchen working to feed the vulnerable

Charities in Newbury are continuing to feed the town's homeless and vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Newbury’s longest running charity Loose Ends helps feed and provide toiletries for the town's homeless and vulnerable. 

The charity is operating it's normal five day a week service to its homeless and vulnerable clients but has made changes following Government guidance over coronavirus and social distancing. 

Volunteers are working their normal shifts providing a take away meal, mini food parcels, and toiletries to those in need and providing food parcels to outreach workers so that they can be taken to those who cannot access Loose Ends.

Working with West Berkshire Council, Loose Ends are providing products to be included in health bags to be given out to rough sleepers and the vulnerable.

Supplies co-ordinator at Loose Ends, Pat Burke, said: "Supplies of tinned goods are at normal levels, but a reduction is expected if there are shortages in the shops.

"Over the coming weeks, supplies of chilled and ambient products may reduce, but Loose Ends cooks are resourceful and inventive and are confident they will continue to produce healthy, wholesome food for clients.

"As one client said on Sunday when collecting his meal, ‘The people here are selfless, they ask for nothing in return, just a thank you'".

Loose Ends regularly meets with other agencies and organisations, including West Berkshire Council and Two Saints, to work out how best to provide for the homeless and most vulnerable in Newbury.

The charity said: "We are so grateful to the public for every single donation. During this period of extreme difficulty, we are suggesting any donations of tinned/ambient food be made direct to West Berkshire Foodbank.

"Small amounts of tinned foods can be brought to the hall 15 minutes either side of the session times. No other donations can be accepted at this time".

The charity operates from The Morton Hall Newbury, on the site of Newbury Baptist Church. It's opening hours are: Monday and Tuesday 12.30pm to 1.30pm, Wednesday and Friday 9.30am to 11am, and Sunday 2pm to 3.30pm.     

Supermarkets have been stripped bare in recent weeks with people stockpiling items such as pasta, rice and toilet rolls.

Newbury Soup Kitchen founder Meryl Praill said the unprecedented situation was making people anxious.

The Soup Kitchen, which provides hot meals and toiletries to Newbury’s vulnerable, has had a drop in donations from supermarkets who normally “donate generously”.

Mrs Praill said the charity would decide whether to start feeding people on a takeaway system.

For others, Mrs Praill said that the social element of the charity work was just as important as the meals. 

She said the charity had discussed stopping some of its older volunteers from attending.

Mrs Praill said: “I feel responsible for the safety of my volunteers.

“The older volunteers are devastated. For a couple of them it’s their lives. They absolutely love it and are going to hate not going in, but I don’t know what else to do. 

“We won’t close unless it’s martial law. We won’t close. If we can’t open the hall we’ll have a van outside with a kettle and do pot noodles and have an urn of soup and bread rather than a three-course hot meal. We have got to suck it and see at the moment.” 

Mrs Praill said the Soup Kitchen had stocks of tinned supplies left over from Christmas donations, but added that they would deplete quickly. 

The charity is appealing for supplies, particularly pot noodles if normal supplies from supermarkets remained unavailable.

“We get donations from Waitrose, Tesco and M&S. They’re incredibly generous, but if it’s been purchased by members of the public that obviously means we are getting less so the more vulnerable are losing out.

“The Food Bank has a good supply of stocks at the moment, but if people get laid off from work then it’s going to have a huge impact, it’s a worry.

“While it’s good now and people are stockpiling, later on when everyone needs it themselves, the problem will be there.

“We are able to buy more if we are not getting it donated. The money will just have to go in a different direction, as long as it’s in the supermarket to buy. If I’m honest I’m quite anxious about it. 

“It’s unprecedented. It’s important to get the message out for the Foodbank and Loose Ends please donate. How many tins of soup or toilet rolls does one family need if it’s making it short for people who have nothing? The problem is we don’t know how long it’s going to go on for.”

Soup Kitchen donation points are at the Co-ops in Brummel Road and Monument Close in Newbury, Charmaine’s Hair and Beauty near the Crucible in Hambridge Road and Harpers Garage in Hungerford. 

Read more about helping neighbours during the pandemic here.

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