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Cromer church first aims to rebuild community

PUBLISHED: 10:36 13 February 2016 | UPDATED: 10:45 13 February 2016

Cromer Methodist minister Rev Sharon Willimott helping Community Matters Cafe volunteers Olivia Reid (right) and Kathy Findlay (left) prepare chunky minestrone soup and sausages in the church kitchen. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

Cromer Methodist minister Rev Sharon Willimott helping Community Matters Cafe volunteers Olivia Reid (right) and Kathy Findlay (left) prepare chunky minestrone soup and sausages in the church kitchen. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

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A north Norfolk church café supporting lonely, isolated or needy local folk has been given a boost, by the announcement of Morrisons supermarket that it will donate all its surplus food to charity instead of throwing it away.

Cromer Methodist Church minister Rev Sharon Willimott with Cromer Morrisons community champion Simon Clipsom, who arranged for the church's community cafe to benefit from the supermarket's surplus food scheme. Picture: KAREN BETHELLCromer Methodist Church minister Rev Sharon Willimott with Cromer Morrisons community champion Simon Clipsom, who arranged for the church's community cafe to benefit from the supermarket's surplus food scheme. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

The Community Matters Café, which is based at Cromer Methodist Church, in West Street, is to benefit from the scheme, after being nominated by Cromer Morrisons community champion Simon Clipsom.

The supermarket, which says it will donate a total of up to 3,500 tons of surplus food from its 500 stores, rolled out the scheme nationally after a successful trial.

It is the first major supermarket to make the pledge, which comes after an online petition urging the government to force retailers to give unsold food to charity attracted nearly 200,000 signatures. Tesco has also expanded its charity food scheme, redistributing surplus food to charities and community groups.

Cromer minister Rev Sharon Willimott, who is acting superintendent for the north Norfolk Methodist circuit, said more donations of food would help the church’s plans to expand its community work.

Community Matters Cafe volunteers Olivia Reid and Kathy Findlay preparing chunky minestrone soup and sausages in the church kitchen. Picture: KAREN BETHELLCommunity Matters Cafe volunteers Olivia Reid and Kathy Findlay preparing chunky minestrone soup and sausages in the church kitchen. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

The café, which is supported by a number of other local churches, began serving up twice-weekly hot meals a year ago.

It now regularly welcomes up to 40 people at its Monday set lunch and Thursday drop-in meals, with an army of 24 volunteers cooking and serving up food, and more helpers keeping the conversation flowing at tables as “hosts”.

“It is not just those with financial restraints, we have a real mix of people from across the social spectrum come here,” Mrs Willimott said. “It could be someone with substance misuse or long term mental health issues, or young mothers or elderly people. What we are trying to do is rebuild community, help people in isolation and provide somewhere people can meet and make friends.”

Mr Clipsom, who, as a member of Cromer Parish Church children’s team, regularly ferries up to 15 local youngsters by minibus to a monthly family session at the Methodist church, said the community café was the first on his list of good causes. “I was really pleased to hear about Morrisons’ plans as, obviously, it is awful when you see good food being thrown away when there is a need in your community,” he said.

When surplus food becomes available, Mr Clipsom will send a text message to the church, which will then arrange for it to be collected.

He added: “I hope that Morrisons will be trailblazers for other supermarkets.”

To donate, phone 01263 512405.


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