Food banks have faced what they call the “hardest winter yet” amid increasing costs in Europe. Because of this, JustServe in the Church’s Europe North Area has been encouraging volunteers to support food-related charities.
JustServe.org is a website and app where charitable organizations and community groups can list their needs for volunteers. Jane and Paul Elvidge oversee JustServe in the Europe North Area and created a campaign called Harvest Appeal in October 2022.
With support from the area presidency, the Elvidges asked stake presidents and stake Relief Society presidents to invite their members to get involved, reported the Church’s U.K. Newsroom.
Jane Elvidge said the response from members and the community was amazing.
“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a good tradition of helping those in need, and we launched the JustServe Harvest Appeal to build on what was already happening in our stakes to help the increasing number of people who are suffering,” she said.
Many stakes already support food banks with regular collections of food, but with the Harvest Appeal campaign, they were able to use JustServe, social media and community connections to collect more donations than usual and find new opportunities to help.
In the Basingstoke Ward in the Reading England Stake, Rebecca Barnsley used social media to promote the Harvest Appeal event. On the day of the drop-offs, missionaries handed out flyers at the chapel gate, and members of the local community came by to donate food.
”It was a huge success, and we delivered two carloads of food to the Basingstoke Food Bank,” Barnsley said. After the event, the food bank wrote her an email to express its gratitude for the 284 kilograms (nearly 550 pounds) of food.
Chloe Ludford — a friend of the Church in Chichester, England — encouraged her office, Leaders Limited, to collect food throughout October for the Chichester District Food Bank through the Harvest Appeal campaign.
“It’s been so nice to see the donations from the public. We get lots of footfall through the door, and we keep having people come in to drop things off and saying that it’s a wonderful cause and how much they like our community spirit,” Ludford said in November 2022. Later she received a grateful email from the food bank, explaining that it runs completely on donations, so the new food was much appreciated.
In the Leeds England Stake, youth in Bradford Ward delivered 200 flyers in their local area. The printer told them there would be no charge because it was a good cause. On collection day, several people from the local Muslim community came to donate food along with the ward members, and they gave 36 bags of food to the Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank.
The Kettering Ward in the Northampton England Stake received nine bags of supplies and made donations of food on Oct. 30 and Nov. 2 — while members also donated to food banks in their hometowns.
Debbie Twigger, a JustServe leader in the Northamptonshire area, said in a JustServe online post: “This was a wonderful opportunity for members to serve the community in love and charity at a time when those in need are in need more than ever. Thank you to everyone who gave selflessly of whatever they could. We know that the food will be gratefully received and bless the lives of many”.
Besides the wards and stakes in England, 15 congregations In Finland also participated in the Harvest Appeal campaign. For example, the Oulu Ward in the Jyväskylä Finland Stake collected food items for the Nada Nord Charity to send to those in need in Ukraine.
Members from Lappeenranta Ward in the same stake took food items to a refuge for teenagers who have grown up with parents suffering from substance abuse. Seeing the bananas and mandarin oranges, one young man said he hadn’t had fruit for years. Others were grateful for minced meat, sweets and lemonade. The organizers explained that the young adults had slipped through the net and rarely seen this kind of love.
While the efforts began in October with Harvest Appeal, the Elvidges are continuing to encourage JustServe volunteers to reach out through the cold weather months in their local communities to help those experiencing food poverty.
They wrote, “Through doing this we will be able to show in a very practical way that we agree with President Dallin H. Oaks’ recent statement, ‘The Church of Jesus Christ is committed to serving those in need, and it is also committed to cooperating with others in that effort’” (“Helping the Poor and Distressed,” October 2022 general conference).