A PROJECT helping to combat hunger in Alloa has been given the stamp of approval by the moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland at the weekend.

The belated dedication service for St Mungo's Parish Church's community café and garden went ahead on Sunday, August 28.

Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields led the service and was there to learn more about the impact of the project.

The service had been initially planned to mark the opening of the café, led by renowned Clacks chef Billy Campbell, but had to be postponed due to Covid-19.

Dr Greenshields said: “It is great to see a church using its resources and the talents of its people to think outside the box.

“The community café and garden are at the core of St Mungos' weekly outreach, and their enthusiastic congregation and minister have combined to seek to make a real difference in their community."

Since opening, the café has helped provide affordable meals for residents while serving as a meeting place and helping to raise funds for those in need.

It has seen a turnover of £71,900 and served 9,433 people, raising profits of more than £38,500 which the church has been able to use for its mission around Alloa and beyond.

"We are doing serious work here," said St Mungo's minister Rev Sang Yoon Cha.

“Billy Campbell, who is one of our elders, was retiring after having been an executive chef in five-star hotels.

“He suggested we should start a café as a place where we could create encounters and I thought it was a great idea.”

Award-winning chef Billy has put five decades of hospitality experience at the service of the church – he has previously cooked for the likes of President Bill Clinton.

The café's success has led to the creation of the community garden.

Rev Cha, who was born in Korea and grew up in New Jersey, added: “Last weekend we harvested a courgette the length of my forearm because the ground is so fertile.

"The garden has blossomed this spring, yielding fresh locally sourced quality ingredients for our garden-to-table menu. Everything on the café menu is made from scratch.

"The garden has been a community effort, bringing together many diverse local organizations and volunteers from all walks of life."

Hopes are now to involve beekeepers from the area to provide the garden with its own resident bees to enhance and pollinate the plants, while nearby primary schools will be offered their own patches of the garden to cultivate.

The weekend's service was attended by members of the congregation along with family members and friends, regular café customers, visitors from other churches, Provost Donald Balsillie and members of the council, MSP Alexander Stewart and more, including visitors from London and South Korea.

The community café at the Bedford Place church is open during weekdays except for Wednesday between 10am and 4pm.