Feeding community

Your-Local-Pantry-logoChurch Action on Poverty is about to start testing an innovative new way for communities to tackle the Poverty Premium: ‘Your Local Pantry’.
In this guest post, Anna Jones from our partner organisation, the social landlord Stockport Homes, explains how they first developed the idea.

Almost three years ago Stockport Homes saw a problem: more and more people having to use food banks, and struggling to meet the costs of everyday living. As a responsible landlord we knew there must be more we could do to help people in need, and this is where the Your Local Pantry network began.

The Pantry model is designed to be a sustainable resource to help help those struggling to make ends meet – before they reach crisis point. Like countless other towns and cities, Stockport has seen a significant rise in reliance upon food banks. Changes in the benefits system and rising food costs have all taken their toll on people’s weekly budget. In some cases people have to choose between heating or eating.

Your-Local-Pantry_photoEach Pantry is a community food club where local residents are invited to join up as members for a small weekly fee of £2.50. In return, residents can select their own items from a wide selection of goods: fresh milk and bread, fresh fruit and veg, and all the usual store cupboard favourites. All monies collected are reinvested straight back into the project, paying for additional supplies (we have just expanded our range to include toiletries, due to popular demand!) or essential equipment. This enables the pantry to stand independently and to cover its overheads without reliance on funding.

Although the main draw of Pantries is food provision, they provide much, much more. They offer work experience opportunities though a volunteering scheme; there are customer service roles in the Pantry shops or, more behind the scenes, working on deliveries and stock control. There is also a Pantry training package currently in development which will enable the Pantries to offer an NVQ level 2 qualification next year, further helping people on the ladder to employment and financial security.

Our first store, Penny Lane Pantry, is celebrating its third birthday next year. During this time a further two Pantries have opened and a fourth is scheduled for Spring 2015. Collectively, they have already helped over 670 households and received over 2,380 visits from their members! The Pantries have assisted five volunteers into full-time, paid employment and redistributed over £50,000 worth of stock to their members.

All three Pantries are well loved by their communities. Not just for the supplies they offer but for what they’ve done to bring different parts of the neighbourhood together. Members will often congregate outside their Pantry well before it opens so they can have a catch-up with new-found friends!

“I love coming to the pantry. Not only does it top up my weekly shopping but it gives me the opportunity to try new things and to meet new people”

The Pantry model has become a great success, and many other like-minded organisations and individuals have contacted us to find out how they can start their own. With a great deal of support from Church Action on Poverty, we have recently submitted paperwork to become a fully-fledged co-operative and are developing a social franchise package where interested groups will be able to apply for a ‘Pantry in a Box’ so they can replicate the model where they are.

It’s been an amazing experience to have seen Your Local Pantry grow from one small pilot scheme into something that has appeared on national TV and garnered interest from all around the country (furthest so far is the Shetlands). I can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings!

Tackling the Poverty Premium: Fair Prices for food

Church Action on Poverty carried out a year-long survey of community-based projects which help people access affordable food, fuel and finance. Your Local Pantry was one of the most effective and exciting projects we came across. So we’re delighted to be working together with the existing Pantries to find ways of enabling other communities to benefit from the idea too.

Through ‘social franchising’, we’ll create resources to help people start their own Pantries – and test out the model in low-income areas of Greater Manchester before making it more widely available.

We also have plans for an ‘Everyday Essentials’ brand which would make affordable credit, furniture and other goods and services more easily available.

To find out more, contact our Poverty Premium Business Development Officer, Dave Nicholson: dave@church-poverty.org.uk

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