STAFF at Christchurch Foodbank Plus celebrated the official opening of the new renovated community space at St Joseph's Church in Christchurch.

Over 100 people attended the opening of the new space, which has helped tens of thousands of people over the pandemic.

Staff say the new space is needed more than ever to offer a range of support as the cost of living crisis continues.

Manager Tracy Blick said: “This community space enables people to come in and sit down and have a coffee and not only just get food but we will then help them with their crisis so they don't need to come back to the foodbank, that’s the idea.

“Christchurch Foodbank Plus is about way more than just food it's about helping people on their journey out of crisis.”

Deputy manager Sarah Lyon said: “Since the new foodbank has been open it's been amazing the amount of people who have come in and just chatted to us.

“Having some to talk to makes people feel a bit lighter and I think people need that since covid because they have become isolated.”

Christine who previously used the foodbank herself before becoming a volunteer said: “It's been quite a journey. I first used the food bank when I was in a very vulnerable place, I had no self esteem and confidence and really needed a bit of help and support.

“They asked me to come on a food budgeting course, where I met new people and when it ended they asked me to come and volunteer and help buddy up with other people who need support.

“Then the pandemic hit and being high risk, I actually had to turn back to the food bank for a food parcel because of a change in my financial system. After the pandemic eased up I started helping again at the community supper.

“We used to be in a little box room in the back which was dark. Over lockdown everything went outside, the volunteers continued to serve the community all through lockdown with people putting themselves at risk, we all worked in the car park. This building was an old brick room and to get the funding to turn it into this is absolutely wonderful.”

The building is dedicated to Nick Coghlan, it was his dream to have the building refurbished before he sadly passed away at the beginning of the pandemic.

His wife Lyn Coghlan said: “It means a great deal because he worked on this for a long time.

“It was an old building, with nothing much happening in it and he felt it could be used for what it is used for today.

“So he worked for many years trying to get permission and eventually it was granted permission just two years ago just before he passed away, so he went a happy man and now it's all just come to fruition.

“It’s nice to spend time with people as well because before we were just in this little space and now we can sit and have a chat and have a cup of coffee and move them on to better days, it’s wonderful and all the volunteers have become a family.”

The foodbank plus offers a range of services including: furniture bank, community supper, cookery workshops, hardship fund, homeless drop-in, homeless/rough sleeper assistance, school holiday hunger, community money advice and meal in a bag.