Abbeycroft Leisure, together with partners, has delivered a staggering 58,500 meals since July 2020, to support families and individuals in financial hardship, tackle food poverty, isolation and inactivity.

Not-for-profit social enterprise, Abbeycroft Leisure, has delivered a number of projects which have been developed and driven by Frank Carn-Pryor, Abbeycroft’s Sports and Outdoor Activity Officer, aimed at addressing inequalities and improving people’s lives.

Festive Food, Reducing Isolation with Food (RIF) and Family Park Cooking have been running since July 2020 and have to date, been responsible for delivering just over 58,500 meals, meal boxes and activity sessions.

Such was the success of the first project with a groundswell of support from the beginning, that Abbeycroft were able to extend RIF and Family Park Cooking throughout the year thanks to generous support and funding by various partners.

Each of the three projects are unique but with a common goal of supporting vulnerable families and individuals in financial hardship and today (23 December) another 200 Christmas meals and hampers were delivered to isolated people in Bury St Edmunds, thanks to the help of students, volunteers, councillors and MP for Bury St Edmunds, Jo Churchill.

Bury St Edmunds Festive Food project and RIF has delivered 11,500 meals since 2020
Funded by Bury St Edmunds Town Council and supported by Tesco, West Suffolk College and Bury St Edmunds Rickshaw.
These two projects deliver heat-at-home meals throughout the year and at Christmas (including hampers) to isolated adults spending Christmas day alone.
Food is prepared by students at West Suffolk College and delivered by the Bury St Edmunds Rickshaw team as well as local councillors and volunteers.

Family Park Cooking has delivered 47,000 meals since 2020
Funded from the government’s Holiday Activity Fund via West Suffolk Council and Babergh District Council.
Abbeycroft’s Family Park Cooking sessions are delivered every school holiday across 8 locations with FREE spaces for families in financial hardship. Families spend a day together in an outdoor location, doing fun, physical activity as well as cooking by a camp fire. However, what makes this project unique, compared to many other holiday food projects, is that each family is also then provided with a food meal box for a week, plus recipes and videos to encourage them to cook, simple, affordable and nutritious meals together at home. Over the Christmas holiday they have also delivered Christmas lunch and Boxing Day ingredient boxes and an activity pack to families across the region.

Frank from Abbeycroft said:

“I’m incredibly proud to be part of the success of these projects and although it has taken a lot of my energy and resource, knowing that we have made a genuine difference to people’s lives makes it all worth while. Thanks to Abbeycroft’s willingness to work in partnership and deliver these much needed services, I’ve been able to coordinate a year-long programme with the help of many, many people.”
“The support again from our funders, partners, volunteers and local businesses has been overwhelming and I’m hopeful we can continue to further develop the projects.”

Town Mayor of Bury St Edmunds, Cllr Peter Thompson said:

“One of the key functions we have at the Town Council is to support our community and we are very happy to be able to be involved with such a worthwhile project which brings together so many people.
We are happy to be able to help our vulnerable residents and hopefully take away a little bit of worry at a time which should be joyful.
We must remember that this project isn’t just for Christmas, it’s paved the way for activity all year round.”

Claire Waterson from West Suffolk College, said:

“Now – more than ever – it’s essential we think of others. Especially at this time of year.”
“Therefore, it was an easy decision for the culinary arts team based at West Suffolk College’s restaurant called Edmunds to step up and once again support this fantastic community project.”

Rachel Thomas, Bury St Edmunds Rickshaw said:

“We are delighted to be involved in the RIF project. Our volunteers really enjoy the conversations they have with our clients on the phone beforehand and on the doorstep when we deliver. We are always looking for more people to take up the offer of a lovely lunch delivered to the door.”

Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds said:

“58,500 meals is 58,500 plates of happiness delivered to people living in hardship. Food binds us together and as a society, reaching out, combating loneliness and helping those whose lives just aren’t as they want them to be, is what this project is all about. Where we can support other people, that’s what makes Bury special. Live in our community and share in our community and at this time of year, nothing can be more important.”

Cllr Robert Everitt, Cabinet Member for Families and Communities, said:

“Through the Government’s HAF fund, we are helping coordinate and support a host of holiday activities across West Suffolk this Christmas. The Explore Outdoor events run by our leisure partner Abbeycroft are particularly great in that, as well as the fun activities, they also provide the ingredients for some wonderful, healthy meals that families can make and cook together at home.”

Cllr Mary McLaren, Babergh District Council cabinet member for Communities and Wellbeing, said:

“Delivering this support has never been as important as it is this winter, with our residents facing unprecedented challenges and higher prices for fuel, housing and food. These sessions and packages provide not just food, but the skills to make food go further and quality time for children, parents and carers. The council continues to support these sessions and we are glad Abbeycroft accessed our Winter Warmth Support Grant to allow their leisure centres to open as warm spaces for this winter.”

“Family Park Cooking, and the indoor winter sessions running over the holidays, are just one of the avenues of support available for families during the cost of living crisis. I’d also encourage anyone who needs it to visit Kingfisher Leisure Centre and Hadleigh Pool and Leisure as a warm space should they need to keep their heating costs down, let their children swim for free, or get a hot drink or a hot shower.”


[Images taken at West Suffolk College 23.12.22 – credit Phil Morley Photography]

people preparing xmas meals
lady driving rickshaw