Smethwick CAN has set up the Smethwick pantry, to be run and used by local people, at Smethwick Library.
The project is the latest in the growing Your Local Pantry network nationally, and the third in the Midlands.
Pantries are membership-based food clubs that enable people to access food at a small fraction of its usual supermarket price, improving household food security and freeing up more money for other essential household costs such as rent and utilities. The weekly fee at Smethwick is £4.00, for which members will be able to choose ten items, with a total value in excess of £20.
Membership opened in October and has already exceeded the initial target. Organisers hoped to have 100 members within six months but hit that in a week and are now nearing 150.
Christina Murray, the Food Hub Manager for Smethwick CAN, said:
“Smethwick Pantry has been a great success, providing good quality food to local people struggling to make ends meet.
“This is the first Pantry in the country to be based in a library. This has been a great benefit to both the library and the pantry. Footfall into the library has increased and the location for the pantry is ideal as it is directly on the main high street with easy access to public transport. We have formed an excellent working relationship with the library staff who have all been very supportive of the pantry.”
One of Smethwick Pantry’s customers, who visits every week, has said it is a real lifeline for her and her family. She enjoys visiting the pantry as the volunteers are friendly and make her feel welcome. It’s nicer than visiting a food bank because she can choose the food herself and pay towards the cost rather than be given a hand out.
Pantries are sustainable, long-term, community-led solutions that can loosen the grip of food poverty in a particular neighbourhood. They can be part of a progressive journey to help people move beyond foodbank use, or can help reduce a family’s need for a foodbank.
They provide members with more choice over the food they get than is possible at food banks, and are controlled by the members, strengthening the community’s ability to prevent food poverty or to progress out of food crisis.
Pantries source their food from a variety of sources, such as supermarket surplus via food recycling charity Fareshare, and by developing relationships with local food businesses who offer surplus food, which helps to reduce food waste and puts savings in the hands of people who are struggling to cover their weekly outgoings, potentially creating a virtuous circle.
Stockport Homes and the charity Church Action on Poverty are supporting the roll-out of pantries across the UK, under the banner of Your Local Pantry, after initial projects in Stockport were shown to have brought social, financial and health benefits including reducing isolation, averting food poverty and improving local people’s mental health. An impact report last year found pantry members had saved £650 a year on average on their shopping bills, and that every £1 invested in pantries generated £6 in social value.
Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, said: “We know the Pantry model brings many benefits to communities up and down the country, helping to loosen the grip of poverty. They nurture community, alleviate isolation and reduce people’s food bills, to ease the pressure. It’s fantastic to see the first library-based pantry opening, showing the diversity and flexibility of the project.”
Anybody interested in setting up a Your Local Pantry in their community is invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org