When the Grace Trust first started its weekly Saturday lunch programme, the aim was simply to provide hot meals to struggling islanders who might not otherwise have access to one…now, following crisis after crisis, the project has taken on a whole new significance.
The charity was set up in 1999 and strives “to put a smile on the faces of vulnerable Jersey folk who find themselves marginalised in society.”
The organisation runs a number of initiatives: a food bank at their base in Lewis Street, a grocery distribution service and even ‘Park Life Choir’, which is open to anyone who may wish to take part.
Following the covid emergency and accompanying cost of living crisis, their services – like many other charities helping vulnerable islanders such as the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul and Community Savings – are now more stretched than ever.
Pictured: The Grace Trust runs a food bank among other supportive services.
To help address this demand, the charity was recently given £10,000 from the Alice Ann Rayner fund – money which will be going to the Grace Trust’s longest running project: its weekly Saturday Lunch.
Strictly speaking, this initiative sees coffees and a two-course meal served at St.Paul’s Church every Saturday afternoon. The meals are always cooked by volunteers on site and the occasion usually sees 40 to 50 people fed and watered.
However, the value of this project is not simply measured in full stomachs. Rather, it’s real value is much less tangible, but no less important: a sense of community.
Vini Jones started out at the Grace Trust as a volunteer in 2005. He is now the General Manager, and a firm believer in the value of the Saturday Lunch Programme.
Pictured: Some members of the Grace Trust team. Vini Jones is second from left.
According to Vini, the saturday lunches see a “mix of people from all layers of society”, all of whom find something of value in these weekly get-togethers - from people who “need a hot meal” to simply people who might feel “lonely or isolated”. Both of these needs can be catered for.
Vini was keen to stress the emotional impact of these lunches on the community. He said that, in a volatile and rapidly changing world, “people just need consistency at the moment.” The ability to offer a regular gathering allows the Grace Trust to build a friendly and supportive community - a regular meeting space that is “consistent and reliable.”
As such, the Saturday lunches become more than just a place to eat, but a “channel” by which people can connect with each other and build a “community of mutual support”. They are a place where everyone has someone to talk to and to listen to them. As Vini put it, the lunches provide “somewhere everybody knows your name.”
Pictured: The Saturday Lunch project is entirely staffed by volunteers.
Of course, food is always on the table for those who attend. The menu is always exciting and aims to offer a variety of items such as meatballs, sweet and sour pork, baked potatoes and cottage pies. “All sorts”, as Vini puts it.
As the Grace Trust food bank is plentifully supplied by donations, the £10,000 Grace Trust has just received will go entirely to keeping these lunches going, being spent on “food, laundry and drinks”, allowing them to continue to encourage “the community to help the community.”
Anyone is encouraged to go along to the Saturday Lunches, all are welcome. “it’s a really good vibe.” Vini promises, “it’s the best restaurant in St Helier on a Saturday lunchtime.”
Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.
Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.
There are no comments for this article.