Demand for Your Local Pantry shops and social supermarkets has increased rapidly in the past year. People want sustainable, dignified, secure food provision, and the Your Local Pantry network has grown from 14 pantries to nearly 50.
Along the way, we have learned many lessons and had hundreds of conversations to help us understand the impact pantries have on members, families and communities. Here is a rapid round up of seven of the ways Your Local Pantry shops make a meaningful difference. Further detail and background can be found in our new impact report.
1. Your Local Pantry strengthens communities
One member in Birmingham told us: “It’s community spirit all the way, it brings the community together and it makes people feel part of something.”
And a volunteer said: “I have made new friends, learned new skills and my confidence has increased. I have gained valuable work experience. I really enjoy being a volunteer.”
In total, 70% of pantry members say they now feel more connected to their community.
2. Your Local Pantry improves health and wellbeing
Pantry membership leads to improved physical and mental wellbeing. Access to new friends, community, good food and new opportunities all contribute to this.
One member told us: “I was very lonely and going to the Pantry helped me make friends who support my mental health as we talk outside the Pantry.”
Another said: “It’s the only time I go out so more exercise, the variety of food enables me to try new things, being creative with the food is great for my mental health.”
Overall, 69% of members say their physical health has improved; 76% say their mental health has improved; and more than half have made new friends.
3. Your Local Pantry improves household finances
95% of pantry members say their household finances have improved since they joined. Lower grocery bills mean poverty’s grip is loosened, and people can more easily meet other essential costs, save, or enjoy more treats as a family.
One member in Liverpool said: “The Pantry is helping me a lot financially to make fresh healthy meals leaving me more able to pay my bills, which was something I was struggling to do. I was eating a lot of frozen food and struggling to put gas and leccy in my meter. Thanks to the Pantry this is no longer an issue.”
4. Your Local Pantry supports healthy diet
Two thirds of members are trying new foods; most are now eating less processed food and more fresh fruit and veg; and 44% are now eating more food overall.
One member said: “We are now able to have fresh home-cooked healthy meals with a small treat afterwards. Which has made me feel better knowing my children are eating properly and I am not skipping meals because I cannot afford it”
5. Your Local Pantry shops tackle food waste
One pantry member told us: “I am also more appreciative of food and not wasting food, thinking about its impact on the environment, being able to circulate food.” Overall, 98% of members say tacking food waste is important to them.
6. Your Local Pantry shops can be post-pandemic springboards
Pantries have come into their own since the pandemic began, proving to be agile and well-connected.
One member said: ““They helped me more than they could imagine. They help with finances. It is someone to talk to over the fence in these really bad times.”
Another said: ““It has been really beneficial, especially as I have been affected by the furlough and my salary has decreased. It has helped with my children’s packed lunch items for school as we fell through the gap of free school meals.”
7. Your Local Pantries nurture dignity and agency
Charities and community projects don’t always manage to maintain people’s dignity when it comes to food access. Pantries are different, as members testify.
Natalie in Liverpool told us: “Some people feel ashamed going to food banks, you feel like you are getting labelled. In the Pantry you are actually paying for stuff. It makes me feel, I have paid for me shop.”
Another member in Birmingham said: “I feel happy and don’t feel ashamed going in here, or feel like I’m being judged. Everyone is treated the same.”
In sum? Pantries are bringing huge benefits to individuals, families, neighbourhoods and society as a whole.
If you’d like to know more, or would like to discuss opening a pantry, visit yourlocalpantry.co.uk