The partnership seeks to treble the existing Your Local Pantry network within three years, supporting 32,000 households.
A launch event is being held at Peckham Pantry in London today, where TV chef and rapper Big Zuu (pictured) is hosting a community cook-along and livestream, with Pantry members, volunteers and special guests.
James Henderson, network development coordinator for Your Local Pantry, said: “Pantries are fantastic places. They bring people together around food, soften the impact of high living costs, and strengthen the power and potential of neighbourhoods. Communities have long wanted to improve food security while upholding dignity, choice and hope, and Pantries are a proven win-win solution. We’re really excited to be teaming up with the Co-op, so another 150 neighbourhoods can open Pantries of their own.”
Rebecca Birkbeck, Director of Community & Membership at Co-op said: “Everybody should have access to good food, this innovative new partnership with Your Local Pantry complements our existing initiatives to provide dignified long-term solutions to food insecurity and the cost of living.
“Pantries are all about dignity, choice and hope. Each one operates as a member-led neighbourhood hub, often serving as a springboard to other community initiatives, opportunities and ideas.
“Things are tough for many of us at the moment and we are proud that pantries will be there to support people and their local communities in dealing with the challenges that are thrown at them, it feels like a real step in the right direction to make the world that little bit fairer.”
Church Action on Poverty coordinates the national Your Local Pantry network, which was launched by Stockport Homes in 2014, and which now has 75 Pantries across all four nations of the UK. Around half of those are based in or supported by churches. The aim is to reach 225 within three years. Interest in Pantries has soared since 2020, as more and more community organisations have sought dignified, sustainable, positive responses to the pandemic and the cost of living emergency. Pantry members can save as much as £1,000 a year on their grocery bills.
Big Zuu, TV Chef and Grime Artist, added: “Everyone deserves access to great quality food at affordable prices. I hope that by visiting the Peckham Pantry and cooking up some healthy, tasty and more affordable meals with the team, more people in need will seek out community initiatives like Your Local Pantry.”
Co-op has this year rejected the idea of a conventional expensive TV Christmas advert, and is instead raising awareness of affordable community food solutions, to support people as living costs continue to rise.
At today’s event, Big Zuu is demonstrating simple, nutritious and affordable recipes and meeting Your Local Pantry volunteers and members who are helping their communities grow and thrive.
The live stream will also include special appearances from chef, presenter and author, Miguel Barclay, the brains behind One Pound Meals.
Pantries are run by uniformed staff and volunteers, and are open to residents of a particular neighbourhood.
Members pay a few pounds a week, and in return can choose groceries worth many times more. Pantries are set out like any other grocery store, so members choose the food they want from the shelves.
Food comes from the national food redistribution charity FareShare, as well as local suppliers in each area.