Community Meal News Report

YOUNG and old, rich and poor are coming together on Friday nights in Watchet to enjoy a community meal organised by a committed group of volunteers, and this week Gazette reporter Steven Salter went along to find out more.

Set up at The Sanctuary on Swain Street, the meal aims to bring the community together and now caters for around 70 people each week.

People who have food parcels from the West Somerset Food Cupboard receive a voucher entitling them to a free meal, meanwhile those who can afford to pay have a suggested donation of £3 for adults and £1.50 for children for their two-course meal.

The culinary delights are served up by former Royal Marine chef Iorwerth Jones, who is used to catering for plenty of people having served in the forces for 37 years.

"When we started about two years ago we used to get about 25 people come through the door, but the word seems to have spread and now we can get up to 100," Iorwerth said.

Tonight's meal is chicken fricasee followed by creamy fruit trifle, and it goes down a treat.

I spoke to a young man called Steve who explained the value of the community meal to those in need.

"It is good because I always know I am going to eat one good meal a week every time I come here, plus it is always delicious," he said.

Cherry Woodford, and Sandy and Chris Pearce come each week for different reasons.

"I live on my own, so it is nice to come down here on a Friday night, enjoy a delicious meal and make new friends," Cherry said.

Sandy Pearce added: "Initially we were sceptical about coming because we knew we could afford to feed ourselves but we were missing the point. Now we really look forward to coming each week and meeting new people."

Throughout the evening many of the people I speak to sing the praises of Reverend Carl Smethurst, the Minister at Watchet Baptist Church who helps to organise the community meal.

"We set up the Community Meal with the simple desire of helping to create community in Watchet," Rev Smethurst said.

"We also wanted to be welcoming and provide a meal for people that had fallen on hard times.

"Part of the stimulus for Community Meal was realising the amount of people who were receiving food boxes from the West Somerset Food Cupboard.

"We thought it would be nice if there were a place people could come and eat free of charge but in a discreet way."

Carl said that in all the time the community meal had been running, there had only been one week where they had not covered their costs.

"That is because although the suggested donation is £3 for adults and £1.50 for kids, what tends to happen is people are more generous and that in turn pays for the people who have the free meals," he said.

So is this an idea that could be rolled out in other areas?

"I think so. We actually get a steady stream of people who will come out from Minehead to get a free meal at The Sanctuary. I don’t how that works in practice because the buses are horrendous, but I think it shows the idea would work in other parts of West Somerset."

The Community Meal runs from 5pm-6.30pm at The Sanctuary in Watchet on Friday evenings.

By Steve Salter (Somerset County Gazette)

Click for more info about FEAST Community Meal

Posted on November 26th 2015

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