Curate’s letter
Copyright, BBC.

October 16thwas World Food Day. A day where the World Food Programme invited people to both acknowledge the extent of the problem of hunger and to join them in calling for a better world. One in which individuals and their communities are empowered to fight poverty, to be educated that they may help themselves and create better resilience to food poverty.

Food poverty is an issue that does not just extend across war torn zones or in regions adversely affected by natural disasters but can also be found much nearer home. A crisis where food, for whatever reason, is now in very short supply in the homes of those around us. But I have been learning that it’s not just food that is in short supply. Over the past few months, more of us have been made aware of period poverty, and I do not think that the young women of Caithness will be exempt from the effects of this in their lives.

Thankfully, we have in Caithness a food bank which serves all of the region, with a centre in Wick and one in Thurso. Having a team of dedicated volunteers willing to spend time with the Caithness Food Bank (CFB), and keep their profile on social media active helps to promote the food bank not only across different generations within Thurso and Wick but also extends their geographic involvement.

When I began my curacy here in Caithness, a little over a month ago,  I wished to find out more about the community involvement of the people of both St. John’s and St. Peter’s. This is a task that will be ongoing as I get to know all of the people who come to both churches, and also those who cannot. I was glad to learn about our involvement with the CFB and wondered how we could help in the lead up to Christmas.

The CFB will be running a reverse Advent Calendar throughout Decmber to ensure that they have enough supplies to give out during December and especially over the Christmas period. How does it work? For each day in December, put aside one item of food into a box and at the end of the month bring those boxes to church. I will then liaise with the CFB in both Thurso and Wick.

This is one way of helping to make a difference in our communities but as I have been discovering, supplying different foods does not always help those in food poverty as much as we think it would. One of the many issues surrounding food banks is that people do not always know how to use the foods they are given, and unless someone is prepared to help them prepare and cook with them, then there is an apparent mystery over some of the foods given to them.

This is where people like the Bootstrap Cook come in. Jack Monroe has written a cookbook (Cooking on a Bootstrap) that explains how to cook using tinned supplies, and a few other ingredients. This cookbook can be ordered and sent to a foodbank, and then photocopied (with her permission) and given out to those who need both food from a food bank and help in preparing the food. Alternatively, it could one of the items in the food box.

If, like me, you’re inspired to create a reverse advent food bank calendar, the following items are an example of what you could put into your box:

·     Biscuits ·    Shower gel ·    Tinned Chickpeas / kidney beans
·     Breakfast cereals ·    Squash ·    Tinned vegetables
·     Custard ·    Soap ·    Tinned fish
·     Coffee / tea / hot chocolate ·    Shampoo ·    Tinned potatoes / dried mash
·     Jam / Honey / Peanut butter ·    Sugar ·     Tinned spaghetti
·     Ham / Corned beef ·    Soup ·     Tinned hot meals (curries, stews, mince, hot dogs)
·     Long-life milk ·    Spices / salt / pepper ·     Tinned fruit
·     Pasta sauce ·    Toothpaste ·    Toilet rolls
·     Rice pudding ·    Toothbrushes ·    Washing up liquid
·     Sanitary products ·    Tinned tomatoes

Unless it’s stated otherwise, I’m going to hazard a guess that the CFB will have enough stocks of pasta to give out, so it’s all the foods that might go with pasta or rice that will be required.

I’m very grateful for the work that the CFB is doing here in Caithness and I’m grateful too to the many volunteers who help the CFB to function, thereby allowing those who are less able to provide meals for their families. I’ve highlighted the work of the Caithness Food Bank this month because I was alerted to the reverse advent calendar that will run through December, but I am equally keen to find out what else the congregations of St. John’s and St. Peter’s are involved in and how we can be more effective in our wider communities. I can only do this with your help. If you have an idea or knowledge of a venture that is happening and you would like to discuss it further, email me at


Ellie Charman