Winslow woman honoured by the Queen for food bank work

'I can't think of anybody who deserves an honour more - I'm literally convinced her work has saved lives,' says Winslow rector

By Hannah Richardson
Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 11:54 am

A Winslow woman has been honoured by The Queen for her work with a local food bank that has helped 60 households in Winslow and the surrounding villages.

Jo Anderson, aged 63, has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the community in Winslow, particularly during Covid-19.

Retired teacher Jo, who is a member of Winslow's St Laurence Church, led the initiative to set up the St Laurence Food Cupboard four years ago.

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Jo Anderson at the Food Cupboard

Jo told the Advertiser: "It stemmed from the vicar getting just one or two visits or calls in a year from people who were in desperate, desperate straits, and just didn't have food at all.

"And of course, being in Winslow, you can't get to one of the food banks, so if you've got no food, where do you go?

"And I discussed it with him and we decided we would have a cupboard in the church office and we would have pasta and some dried and tinned food in there - so that if anybody called we could just go and get a bag of emergency rations to give to whoever it was."

The scheme, which was financed by donations from members of a church house group, received four calls in the first year, then 12 in the second.

And then Covid struck, with many people suddenly facing hardship as the pandemic prevented them from working.

Jo is now in charge of a dozen volunteers running the service which currently helps about 25 households

Jo said: "I co-ordinate it and receive all the calls, and I have people behind the scenes who put together all the packs of food and I have other people who do the deliveries. It's a well-oiled team.

"Different people have come on - when we were in lockdown we had people who were furloughed, they did lots of deliveries, and now it's more retired people and some younger people who are looking for jobs and things.

"It's such a big team effort and the team is just absolutely amazing.

"We've formed good relationships with some of our people that we've supported for quite a while, and therefore we've helped them in other ways, with applying for jobs and things like that."

And she added: "It all stems from my faith, all of it. As a Christian person, we are told to love each other and, you know, if people are in need, then that's when they need help."

Jo said she was "absolutely staggered and amazed" to be awarded the British Empire Medal.

And she added: "It would be a fantastic opportunity to thank all the people of Winslow for their food donations, money donations and household goods.

"And all the organisations of the town, and the town council and the county council have all just been fantastic in giving us money and grants and things, so that we don't just give out dried food and store cupboard food but we buy fresh food like bread, cheese, milk, potatoes, veg, fruit. For me it's essential to have all those fresh things.

"We do go through money but the people of Winslow and the town council and the county council have been so amazing in their generosity."

Rector of Winslow, Rev Andrew Lightbown, said he can't think of anyone who deserves an honour more.

He told the Advertiser: "She has led the Food Cupboard and has been the real momentum and the impetus behind it. She is the public face of it.

"I'm both very pleased and very proud of her and what she's achieved on behalf of the church for the community.

"She's basically got the whole community involved - all the civic groups, all sorts of people have contributed and then loads of private individuals - so she's really led a whole-community initiative.

"I'm just so chuffed for her - I can't think of anybody who deserves an honour more.

"Because I'm literally convinced her work has saved lives.

"I'm absolutely convinced that, without everything she's done some, people would be in a very, very dark place."