Church Action on Poverty helps communities to set up ‘Your Local Pantry’ community cooperative food stores, run by volunteers for the benefit of their members in low-income communities.

A Pantry is a membership scheme aimed at helping people make their money go further by:

  • reducing food shopping bills (members can save over £500 each year);
  • providing advice and support;
  • developing skills.

Local Pantries mean people can bring down their food shopping bills, and access good food, whilst freeing up more money for other essentials and enabling tight budgets to stretch a little further. They mean that people can stay afloat in tough times, rather than being swept into debt, and also promote new skills, combat isolation and improve health.

“The food is very good for people who are struggling, for poor families on benefits like myself. It’s food we wouldn’t be able to buy.”
A member and volunteer at the Dusty Forge pantry in Cardiff

“Our vision is to grow a network of local pantries across the UK. Why is this so important? Because people are struggling to afford good food and for a modest weekly fee you can access really good food with dignity and choice. We know about the growth of foodbanks. This is much more dignified – you can choose to become a member, choose to volunteer. It’s your project and the local ownership of it is really important.”
Niall Cooper, Director, Church Action on Poverty

A social impact report last year, studying the first few pantries to have opened, found they had brought social, financial and health benefits to members, including reducing isolation, averting food poverty and improving local people’s mental health. Pantry members had saved £650 a year on average on their shopping bills, and every £1 invested in pantries had generated £6 in social value.

Across the country, Pantry members give ringing endorsements, often citing the dignity, choice, community and food quality that pantries provide. Here are just a few:

A member and volunteer at the Dusty Forge pantry in Cardiff: “They had helped me out with a washing machine and a fridge freezer when I was really struggling, and when I heard about the pantry I wanted to volunteer to give a little back. You can choose your own stuff so you don’t feel like you’re getting charity; you’re paying for it. The foodbank for me felt very degrading, I was shy in case I met any of my neighbours. It was my last resort but this is different, this is amazing.”

Win, a member at Whitby’s Pantry in Preston: “It’s a good community and you make friends here. The pantry is good value for money and it’s really useful. By being here it frees up more money for people’s bills and other essential outgoings. We had a community supermarket here before but it was pot luck what you got. Now, I can choose what I want.”

Carl, manager at The Lighthouse Pantry in Middleton, north Manchester: “We could see that even after helping people through ties of food crisis, it was still difficult for them to fully make ends meet on limited income. When we came across the pantry idea, we immediately saw that this could be a useful stepping stone, helping people reduce their food costs, feed their families and keep more money in the household to pay other bills.”

The pantries have prompted a rethink in attitudes to food poverty, and have generated wide-ranging and insightful coverage by national and local media.

We manage the social franchise in partnership with Stockport Homes, who first developed the Pantry model, and are now working closely with communities all over the UK, to help roll out the model where it is needed. 

Here are just some of the projects that have launched pantries so far.

·         Stockport Homes began the Your Local Pantry approach in 2014 and has since opened four pantries in the town. Members have reported improved financial positions, improved health and wellbeing and reduced isolation. You can read a detailed and inspiring impact report here.

·         Action in Caereau & Ely (ACE) runs a wide range of community projects in west Cardiff. It was set up to develop and deliver a range of projects and activities to regenerate and improve the communities it serves. It recently took over the old Dusty Forge building, and it opened a pantry there in summer 2019. WalesOnline reported on the opening here.

·         The Lighthouse Project is a wide-ranging community organisation based in the top floor of a shopping centre in Middleton, north Manchester. It provides a safe and welcoming place where people can meet together, find support and access opportunities that are caring, social and educational. It runs many excellent projects, and its pantry opened in early 2019 at a special open day attended by its patron, the actor Steve Coogan.

·         CFINE works to strengthen communities, improve health and wellbeing and alleviate poverty in north east Scotland. It opened Scotland’s first Your Local Pantry, in Woodside Community Centre in Aberdeen. CFINE recognises the need for food banks, but says they are not helpful as they create dependence, erode dignity and don’t change anything. Pantries are a sustainable alternative. The Guardian reported on the opening here.

·         The Intact Centre provides support, advice, drop-in services and signposting support for people in the Ingol and Tanterton neighbourhoods of Preston. It had run a community food service for some time, handing out bags of food, but converted recently to the pantry approach, creating more choice, more dignity and more involvement for local residents. Here’s how the Lancashire Post reported the project.

These videos cover two of the recent pantry openings. Above, Carl Roach and Steve Coogan talk about the pantry in Middleton, and below is a video about the opening at Dusty Forge in Cardiff.

If you are interested in setting up a Pantry in your area then we can help. Our franchise package has been developed over a number of years and incorporates a wide range of experience, knowledge, support and essential materials in how to set up and run a Pantry. 

The Your Local Pantry franchise package includes:

  • Pantry Handbook – this is a comprehensive manual which gives step-by-step instructions and guidance on how to set up and operate a Pantry. This covers everything from health and safety, food hygiene through to operational details.
  • Pantry Management Software – a bespoke system we have designed and developed to manage volunteers, members, stock as well as automate processes and provide comprehensive reporting information.
  • Procedures and templates – documents detailing day-to-day processes to help ensure the highest of standards are adhered to.
  • Marketing materials – Your Local Pantry branded forms, templates and social media coverage to assist in publicising your Pantry and boosting membership numbers.
  • Website – advertising of each Pantry site, good news stories and key messages on the central Your Local Pantry website.
  • Set up and development support – one-to-one support from a dedicated Project Officer including site appraisals, contacts and initial set up and assistance.
  • Training and support – advice and guidance on setting up, software training and shadowing opportunities at existing Pantries.
  • Annual conference and networking opportunities – ongoing communications across the Your Local Pantry network.
  • Partners – Pantries work closely with FareShare as well as receive discounts from Partner organisations.
  • Communications – monthly communications from across the Your Local Pantry network.
  • Continuous updates – the manual and software will be continually updated as changes to suppliers, legislation and new lessons are learned. The franchise fee also covers the ongoing software and website licences as well as continuous development of the franchise itself. 

If you are interested in finding out more, register here and we’ll be in touch to send you a franchise brochure – or email our Pantry Development worker, Gillian Oliver at gillian@church-poverty.org.uk

It's more than just a full tummy, it's a massive link in the community

———— A Pantry customer in Stockport

Social impact

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Find out more

See the difference Pantries make in communities - read our report on their social impact
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Find out more and see details of existing Your Local Pantries
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Get involved

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Set up your own Pantry

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Contact our Your Local Pantry Programme Officer
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