A soup kitchen has been inundated with families queuing for hours due to the impacts of Covid – and has fed 30,000 people during the pandemic.
Mark Butcher, 51, said it breaks his heart to see families begging for food as they are terrified they won’t be able to feed their children.
He founded Amazing Graze in 2012 after he got sober and realised he wanted to help as many people who were struggling through the “violence” of poverty.
Initially, the soup kitchen catered to the homeless community in Blackpool, Lancs., but due to the “devastating” effects of Covid, it has seen people from “all walks of life” enter its doors.
Almost 700,000 people in the UK, including more than 100,000 children, have been plunged into poverty as a result of the Covid economic crisis, according to the Legatum Institute.
The UK unemployment rate has risen to roughly five percent during the pandemic, with nearly two million people unemployed.
Redundancies also hit a record high in the end of 2020 – with 395,000 jobs lost between September and November.
Mark has yet to take a day off in more than a decade as he says he does not feel like what he is doing is charity, but a fight against injustice.
Mark, from Blackpool, Lancs., said: “The scale of the problem is huge. There’s got to be an end to this.
“It’s devastating to see families literally begging for food. To see other human beings struggling like this.
“To see them queuing outside in the freezing weather. It devastates me as a human being.
“Families terrified they won’t be able to feed their children, it’s awful to see. Awful.
“We offer them love, that’s all we can do. We offer unconditional love.
“Our doors and our hearts are open to everyone.”
The soup kitchen has seen big and small families, pensioners, young adults who have lost their jobs and even full-time workers use its services in the last 12 months.
He said he was reduced to tears over Christmas after delivering 500 meals to 500 lonely people with the help of more than 100 delivery drivers.
Dad-of-two Mark said: “On Christmas Day we drove out and delivered 500 meals to 500 lonely people.
“I cried in front of my family. I’m a strong man, but I cried.”
Mark had struggled with alcohol and drug addiction for around a decade, but said Alcoholics Anonymous saved his life in 2003.
For the next few years he would become a pastor in the streets of Blackpool and spread hope and positivity to the struggling people who crossed his path.
But since becoming sober, he said his “rock bottom” was the “foundation” to build a life where he could help others.
Mark said: “I came from a place of injustice, poverty, lack of education. And struggled. But when I got to that point 2013 when I decided to get clean and sober, I set off on a new journey.
“My rock bottom was a solid foundation in which I went on to build my life.
“The way I see things, now where I am today, I see poverty as the greatest form of violence.
“I went to Alcoholic Anonymous in 2003 and they saved my life.
“My heart was changed, God did something very deep inside me, and in my healing I was serving. As I served I healed.
“As I gave it away, I was receiving help. And as I received it, I gave it away.”
The soup kitchen does far more than provide food parcels and fresh food for families, as it is a support hub open to anyone who needs help to get back on their feet.
He said: “I can help with food, furniture, debt, bad landlords, I can help deal with any problem imaginable.
“I keep learning and try to find solutions to help people to get on their feet.”