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A volunteer and a customer at the Peckham Your Local Pantry

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.

The team at Your Local Pantry in Peckham

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.

A volunteer and a customer at the Peckham Your Local Pantry

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

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The second of our 2021 calendar stories takes us to South Yorkshire

Music brings people together and captures people’s attention – and it can be a force for change.

In Yorkshire, for the past two years, one community’s shared love of music and a shared desire to learn has led to new relationships, and new-found solidarity and belief.

Through the power of music, participants are reasserting their dignity and agency, and building new friendships along the way.

The Food Glorious Food Guitar Circle in Sheffield. Photo by Madeleine Penfold.

Food Glorious Food

If you have the Dignity, Agency, Power calendar, you will recognise the above photo, showing a group of guitarists in Gleadless Valley in Sheffield.

Yo Tozer-Loft set up the Food Glorious Food choir in the neighbourhood in 2015, and the group gained national attention singing at Sheffield Cathedral to highlight the injustices of food poverty and when it was used as research for the National Theatre Play, Faith, Hope and Charity. In January 2020, just before the pandemic, Yo and some of the group set up a guitar circle, to build on that success.

“We put a call out to see if people had spare guitars sitting around not used, and it was lovely to get them coming in. A local musician, Pod Pearson from Rich Tone, restrung all the guitars in his own time for free, which was very generous, and whenever anyone broke a string, they helped again. The other people who were so supportive was a well-known cellist called Liz Hawks, who supports community music and got tuners for everyone, and Stuart, our teacher, who waived his fee5

Post-pandemic plans

“We started at the start of 2020 and had nine sessions until everything stopped in March. We had planned a showcase performance and did not get to do that, which was such a disappointment. We had all been building up to perform, and it would have been a really lovely moment.

“People were so committed. I have worked before with nervous people but so often people rise to the moment, and the guitarists were willing to put themselves up there as soloists.

“Gleadless Valley Methodists supported us, but so did the Gleadless Valley Library, who hosted a couple of sessions. Reach South Sheffield and St Mary’s Bramall Lane also supported us.

“Once lockdown ends, we are really hoping to regroup as soon as we can.

The joy of learning together

“We got so much from the project. Learning is so magical. Learning brings joy and lets people feel like the humans they are meant to be. The guitar circle combined learning, music and discovering yourself, and people discovering themselves through music is wonderful to see. Learning, music and community are such a combination, and having music to enable connections and friendships really does work.

“We kept going once the pandemic hit. We had a WhatsApp group to stay in touch, so had group calls every week and that was a good continuation for people, giving and getting human support.”

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Self-Reliant Group facilitator, Laura Walton, shares the joy of Easter

All around us there is acute pain and suffering. Collectively around the world there has never been a worse time than this in our histories and a better time to hear the good news that is Easter Sunday. Today at sunrise we join with millions of people, to celebrate the moment where the divine nature of Jesus is revealed in its most powerful way yet. Death had no power over the son of God. What happened after the events of Good Friday were exactly as Jesus had said. He would die on the cross but 3 days later he would come alive again. Mary Magdalene was the first to see her risen saviour in person, face to face. She was told to go and tell the others and she did.
 
Later when the other disciples had heard the news and then in fact seen Jesus, truly alive, they were told to go and tell the good news. Everything Jesus had taught them and told them about our loving heavenly Father could now be believed wholeheartedly, because they had seen the proof in the man who walked amongst them with wounds in his hands and feet. And they went with courage now, not cowering, to tell the world.
 
Thank God they were courageous and bold or we might never have heard and our Easter joy would be filled with rabbits and eggs instead of faith fueled hope that our God is in control and nothing can separate us from his love, his protection and his mighty hand over our todays, tomorrows and our days to come.
 
From the book of Romans chapter 8, verses 38 and 39:
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries for tomorrow -not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below- indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 
HAPPY EASTER to you all, may you know God’s love and let it dwell richly in you, giving you freedom from the fears and anxieties that have hung over our daily lives for so long now.

Find out more about Self-Reliant Groups: http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/srg 

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5 February 2021

Neighbourhood food pantries can be at the heart of Britain’s pandemic recovery, strengthening communities, improving health, and loosening the grip of poverty.

The Your Local Pantry network today [Friday 5 Feb] launches its 2021 impact report, charting the difference its pantries are making to members and their communities.

In the past year, the number of pantries has risen from 14 to 42. More than 6,800 UK households, including almost 12,000 adults and 8,000 children are now members.

Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, which runs the network, said:

“The rapid growth of the Your Local Pantry network offers a beacon of hope, demonstrating that communities can be at the forefront of developing practical and sustainable long-term responses to the pandemic. The network has grown exponentially and is rapidly becoming a key component of community-led recovery across the country. It could easily double in size again in the next two years.

“Of course, we need urgent action by Governments and employers to ensure households have access to secure and adequate incomes, free from the grip of poverty. But at the same time as pressing for such action, our goal over the next five to ten years is to help develop a national network of Local Pantries building dignity, choice and hope at all times for thousands more people. They can help drive the rebuilding of neighbourhoods, and ultimately strengthen the voice of communities who are too frequently overlooked, neglected, or stigmatised.”

 

Gillian Oliver, Your Local Pantry Development Worker, said:

“When people get in touch about starting a Pantry, they usually have experience of charitable food projects of one kind or another. In 2020 many were councils, grappling with food provision in a national emergency and looking for something new: something local people can lead, something that isn’t constantly grant-seeking but which pays its own way. And that’s what a Pantry is – it’s not charity – it’s not a food bank. It’s a food club that helps your money go further. You can join without being referred and remain a member for as long as you wish.” 

The impact report, Dignity, Choice, Hope is based on interviews and surveys with 490 members from 19 pantries, and on stock data and volunteer and member stories.

Findings include:

  • 95% of members said being in a Pantry had improved their household finances
  • 70% feel more connected to their local community
  • 69% say their physical health has improved
  • 76% say membership has improved their mental health
  • 57% say they have made new friends
  • 59% say they now eat less processed food
  • 54% say they now eat more fresh fruit & veg

One member at St Andrew’s Pantry 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.”

Another 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.”

The report shows that pantries have been instrumental in increasing resilience, building community, saving money, and promoting health and well-being for thousands of people.

The past year’s growth has been fastest in Liverpool, where the St Andrew’s Community Partnership has opened ten new pantries with total membership of more than 2,200, supported by Liverpool City Council and Together Liverpool. There has also been rapid growth in the West Midlands, Edinburgh, Cardiff and London, and pantries have also opened in Lowestoft, Dover, Salisbury and Dorset.

Members join pantries by paying a small weekly subscription (typically around £5), which entitles them to £20 or more a week of groceries, meaning members can save more than £780 a year. Stock comes through FareShare and local suppliers, and a key principle of pantries is that people have access to a good choice of high-quality food. The choice is central to sustaining dignity, but the research shows membership benefits extend far beyond food access and saving money.

The past year has seen a wide range of organisations support the pantry model, including Liverpool City Council, Burgess Hill Town Council in Sussex, Oasis Academy Trust in the West Midlands, Peabody Housing Trust in London, a GP-surgery in Dorset, a local arts centre in north Edinburgh and many smaller neighbourhood organisations and faith groups.

The Your Local Pantry model was pioneered by Stockport Homes in 2013, and developed into a national network by Church Action on Poverty.

Elena Vacca, Community Food Officer at Foundations Stockport (part of Stockport Homes Group), said:

I’m glad that the model we created has been rolled out across the UK by Church Action Poverty and therefore it’s had the chance to help support more people throughout the pandemic in terms of accessing food but also in tackling social isolation. In Stockport, residents have been grateful to get access to the food they need with dignity, providing a hand up rather than a hand out.”

Notes to editors

  • The impact report, Dignity, Choice, Hope can be downloaded here. It includes quotes from many pantry members and volunteers.
  • The report is authored by Dr Naomi Maynard of Rooted Research in Liverpool and Dr Fiona Tweedie of Brendan Research in Edinburgh.
  • If you have any queries or to arrange interviews with pantries in any particular area, email gavin@church-poverty.org.uk
  • Your Local Pantry was formed by Stockport Homes Group in 2013, and developed into a national network by Church Action on Poverty. The roll-out is supported by Thrive Together Birmingham, St Andrew’s Community Network Liverpool and Faith in Community Scotland.
  • Pantries are run along cooperative lines, by and for their members and are run as neighbourhood shops, with uniformed staff, helping to reduce the stigma.
  • They are open to anyone who lives in the local area, with no need for referral, and there is no time limit on membership.
  • Members can choose what they want, using a colour-coded system to ensure access to a balance of fresh, packaged and higher-value foods.
  • Your Local Pantry insists on good quality food, including fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen and chilled food, including meat and dairy products, alongside tins and packets.
Naomi Maynard with the Dignity, Choice, Hope report
Your Local Pantry volunteers in Liverpool with the new report

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Our 2o21 report on the social impact of our Your Local Pantry programme

“I have food in my cupboards and have a bit of money to pay my debts off. The Pantry is not just a place to get food, it is a place to meet friendly staff and make new friends” 

Pantry at No. 5, Stockport 

Click here to find out more about Your Local Pantry

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In the midst of the dark times, the rapid growth of the Your Local Pantry network across the country, offers a beacon of hope, demonstrating that local communities can be at the forefront of developing practical and sustainable long-term responses to the current crisis. 

Over the past nine months, the Your Local Pantry network has grown exponentially, and is rapidly becoming a key component of a community-led recovery from the pandemic in towns and cities across the country. 

The growth of Your Local Pantry represents a further flourishing of the community-led mutual-aid movement which has a long history in the UK, and which has very much come back to the fore in response to the coronavirus crisis.  Local Pantries, as sustainable member-run food clubs, are a move away from the model of foodbanks, with their focus on emergency food handouts, towards a more sustainable long-term response to food poverty.  More than this, Local Pantries promote health well-being, saving money and building community and social connection, offering their members dignity, choice and hope in a time of crisis.

Our new  Pantries social impact report, published this month, demonstrates how Local member-run Pantries have been instrumental in increasing resilience, building community, saving money, promoting health and well-being for thousands of members across UK.  The network has more than trebled in size from 14 Pantries in March 2020, and is now looking forward to welcoming the 50th Pantry to the network in the next few weeks. In terms of sheer numbers, Liverpool has led the way, with ten new Pantries (with a combined membership of over 2,200) opened by St Andrews Community Partnership, with the support of Liverpool City Council and Together Feeding in the past nine months. There are also rapidly growing clusters of Pantries in the West Midlands, Edinburgh, Cardiff and London, but Pantries have also opened also as far afield as Lowestoft, Dover, Salisbury and Dorset.  On the basis of current levels of interest, the network could quite easily double in size again over the next two years.

A key component of each Local Pantry in the network is ensuring that people have access and choice to good quality food, but the in depth research conducted with Pantry members over the past few months demonstrates that the impact of being a Pantry member extends far beyond simply access to food.  Wider benefits include saving money (£15-£20 per visit, and up to £800 a year per member), promoting health and well-being, offering volunteering and employability and ultimately, rebuilding social connectedness and the positive vibe of a community coming together to address its own needs.  For many members, Pantries also enable them to play their part in saving the planet; reducing food waste, and preventing surplus food ending up in landfill.

An impressive range of partner organisations, have got on board and share the vision of how Local Pantries can help transform local communities, and offer local people dignity, choice and hope. Local authorities from Liverpool city council, through to Burgess Hill town council in Sussex, Oasis Academy Trust in the West Midlands, Peabody Housing Trust in London, a GP-surgery in Dorset, a local arts centre in north Edinburgh, through to a whole host of local neighbourhood organisations and faith groups.  One of our newest Pantries is due to be opened in the next few weeks by the Abbey Community Centre, just round the corner from Westminster Abbey at the heart of the capital.

Pantries are a key component in community-led recovery, but must be set aside action by governments and employers across the UK, to ensure that households have access to secure and adequate incomes, to the extent that they can choose where and how to access good quality food on a regular basis, to live lives free from the fear of having to choose between food or other basic essentials, and ultimately, to live lives free from poverty.

Over the next 5-10 years, our goal is to support the development of a national network of Local Pantries, building dignity, choice and hope for thousands of Pantry members across the country.  Local Pantries can be a key component in rebuilding communities and neighbourhoods, and ultimately a more powerful voice for communities who are too frequently overlooked, neglected, or worse still stigmatised and blamed for society’s ills.

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stock cartoon image of two people sitting in adjacent chairs, talking

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