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#SoupKitchen21: Merry Christmas and a massive Thank You!

You have been so generous, and the Roker Report team are so grateful for your support. Together we have ensured the poorest in our city don’t go hungry in 2022.

Wow. Together we have raised over £67,000 in 24 days for the Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen. We want to thank you all from the very bottom of our hearts for your support. It means the world to us and the folk down at the Soup Kitchen.

The work that Andrea Bell and her team of dedicated volunteers do at Albert’s Place on High Street, at their foodbank in Hendon, in their food deliveries, and all the other outstanding services they provide to people in need in the city centre, is made possible by your kindness of and your care for others.

We want to thank them for their dedication, their selflessness, and their kindness, and for welcoming the Roker Report team with open arms. They’ve shared their stories, they’ve given us the boosts and the motivation we’ve needed to keep planning, writing, and podcasting this month. Our work is nothing without their commitment to making the world a better place.

We also want to thank the good people at Sunderland AFC including Steve Davison, Lee Johnson, Melanie Reay, Oscar Chamberlain, Luke O’Nien, Charlotte Potts, Dan Neil and table tennis Linda, who have given their time to help the appeal.

We want to thank Julio Arca and Crabbers, Gordon Armstrong, Steve Caldwell, Henry Winter, Martin Smith, Mike McKnight, Jen O’Neil, Rachel Furness, Alex Rae, Joanne Youngson, Nick Barnes, Peter Reid, Andy Dawson, James Hunter, Marco Gabbiadini, Frankie Francis, Fulwell 73, the SAFC fan media lot, and all those I’ve missed or forgotten who helped us to achieve the marathon task of a 24 hour live Twitter broadcast earlier in the month.

And thank you to the Roker Reporters and our readers who so far have logged 1,300km in runs, walks, and cycles for our Strava Challenge this December. This is over halfway towards our target of 2,380km - the distance between all the League 1 grounds, and we’re keeping this going until 31st December to give everyone the chance to work off those big Christmas dinners.

Thank you to all who have donated food and money this Christmas

This campaign comes from that basic human response of not walking by on the other side. Of loving thy neighbour. Of the solidarity encapsulated in the old maxim “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”.

All of the money raised will go on the work that sits at the heart of the Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen - the provision of good quality fresh food to those in food poverty. So, your donations will mean that anyone who needs it - from the homeless military veteran to local youngster who has been kicked out of home - can receive a hot meal four nights a week.

But the huge amount that you have raised will allow the charity the freedom to use the proceeds of its other fundraising activities to expand and develop its work into different areas.

Your donations will mean that children seeking refuge in our city have toys to play with. Your donations will mean that people escaping domestic violence or sexual exploitation are able to set up a new home in safety. Your donations will mean that plans for new services to provide fresh fruit to children and basic health services to the homeless can go ahead.

The Right to Adequate Food is a Human Right. It is something that everyone on the planet is entitled to, and every national government on earth has the obligation to ensure for the people who live within its borders. It is something, as Dave Kelly from the Liverpool-based Fans Supporting Foodbanks told me this week, it’s something the UK signed up to at the United Nations in 1948.

Today, families will eat a hot Christmas dinner that the Soup Kitchen has provided them with. You’ve helped to make that happen. Your fiver. Your fifty quid. When you shared our link on your family group chat or emailed it around your office, you have helped to feed people today and for the year ahead.

Thank you to the volunteers at the Soup Kitchen who make the magic happen

The existence of the Soup Kitchen is the mark of both everything that is wonderful in our society and everything that is wrong with our society. So what happens next? As we emerge into 2022, we should be focused on working together with other groups campaigns that will mean eventually, we can the volunteers at the Soup Kitchen can turn our attention to other less profound causes.

Food poverty is a scourge that has to be eliminated. It is the consequence of failings across the whole remit of public policy. Zero-hours contracts, low wages, high energy prices, access to public transport and childcare, prisons and probation, housing costs and standards, tenancy rights, immigration policy, welfare systems, drug prohibition, town planning, education, and health services.

The degradation of our public realm and the neglect and indifference that those in power have demonstrated towards people on the margins of our society is something we as voters and citizens can change.

Despite all the challenges of the modern world, England is a rich country with huge financial resources. It's a matter of political choices and political priorities. Yes, there will always be those souls who for whatever reason chose a life on the streets, but everyone has the right to food and shelter.

As we celebrate this Christmas and see the New Year in, let’s all resolve to keep playing our part in making the changes needed for this to become a more tolerant, more caring, more equal Sunderland for us to share together.

Ha’way and have a very Merry Christmas everyone.

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