Suffolk top-up shop tackles challenges faced by rural communities

The vicar at a church Top-up shop in Suffolk has spoken of the unique challenges faced by those living in rural areas.

The Revd Mandy Reynolds is a team vicar in the Wilford Peninsula Benefice, which includes St Felix and St Gregory’s churches in Rendlesham. Over the last five years, St Felix Church has grown into a thriving community hub, offering a Top-up shop and community café, which run every Tuesday.

Mandy said people living in rural areas face different challenges to those living in towns and cities and require community resources to match those needs.  “Social isolation is a big challenge faced by people in rural communities,” she said. “In fact, many people come to the Top-up shop for the social aspect as well as to top-up their shopping. The social aspect has been so important – we hope this enables people to come along who wouldn’t otherwise. Transport is another big challenge people face, with buses few and far between making accessing support much more difficult. We also do healthcare checks at St Felix Church with staff from the local medical centre – blood pressure tests and dietary advice. Simple things like that make a huge difference.”

The Top-up shop is supported by the BASIC Life charity, which supplies food for the project.

Mandy added  “I am delighted to see the church community grow through these projects and I am really looking forward to seeing where the future takes us”.

Lots of people attend the shop regularly including pensioners Brian and Jean, who have been coming to the Top-up shop since it opened. Brian said: “We are not regular church goers but we come here because it’s friendly and welcoming. We feel like we are part of the family.” 

Sandra Jones, Chair of the Top-up shop, said: “The Top-up shop and café offer a safe and welcoming space for people. We have some people who come along to shop but also volunteer at the same time. They offer help to others, collecting the food from BASIC Life, setting up the day, serving on the door and baking cakes for the café– it all helps.”

For more on the Top-up shop, see

Pictured: Brian and Jean Top-up shop regulars.

Page last updated: Wednesday 7th February 2024 3:52 PM
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