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Church teams up with Forest Gate cake business to launch food kitchen for the homeless

PUBLISHED: 09:00 21 November 2018

Bruce Stokes and Sukh Chamdal are setting up a homeless kitchen in the car park at the Woodgrange Baptist church in Forest Gate. Picture: Ken Mears

Bruce Stokes and Sukh Chamdal are setting up a homeless kitchen in the car park at the Woodgrange Baptist church in Forest Gate. Picture: Ken Mears

Archant

A church in Forest Gate is doing its bit to help Newham’s homeless.

Bruce Stokes is minister at the church, whike Sukh Chamdal owns a local cake business. Picture: Ken MearsBruce Stokes is minister at the church, whike Sukh Chamdal owns a local cake business. Picture: Ken Mears

Woodgrange Baptist Church, in Romford Road, has teamed up with a local cake business to launch a weekly food kitchen for the homeless.

The idea came from an unlikely friendship between the church’s minister, Bruce Stokes, and Sukh Chamdal, owner of The Cake Box.

“It partly came from a friendship I’ve had with Sukh for some years,” said Mr Stokes, who’s been minister at the church for 13 years.

“From ongoing conversations we’ve had together, it was something he was really keen to do.”

Mr Stokes admitted there are Gurdwaras across the borough which provide free food, and members of the Sikh community taking mobile kitchens across the city. But he was concerned not enough people were making use of these services.

“We ran a soup kitchen last winter, which enjoyed a little success,” the 63-year-old said.

“It worked okay, but we only had about a dozen people a week.

“But we realised it was just soup and bread.”

The food will be provided by Mr Chamdal, 56, who had a background in the catering industry before opening his cake shop. The menu will be entirely vegetarian, and will include chips and beans, or chickpeas and rice.

While they recognise hunger is primarily an issue for those on the street, it’ll be open for anyone experiencing food poverty in Newham. Visitors can eat on the spot, take it away, or eat in the church when it’s raining.

Mr Stokes is also the chair of a housing charity, Just Homes, based in Norwich Road which provides training and volunteering opportunities to help homeless people gain employment.

“These things are always quite challening, but we know the need is out there,” Mr Stokes said.

“Homelessness is a huge problem, but the starting point is to make sure that if people are hungry they’re fed, and if they’re thirsty they have something to drink.

“This is only a start, but at least we can build something in their lives and help them make connnections.”

The food kitchen will open today (Wednesday) from 6.30pm, and will run weekly throughout winter.

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