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Church Action on Poverty and Co-op are today (Wednesday 16 November 2022) launching an exciting new partnership that will enable 150 neighbourhoods around the UK to open their own Your Local Pantry stores.

Big Zuu in a Your Local Pantry / Co-op apron

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.

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Bob Rea Speaking at Conference Event

Sheffield's Poor Need their own Commission and a Bigger Slice of the Pie

Bob Rea Speaking at Conference Event

A conference focusing on the cost of living crisis has heard calls for Sheffield to give the poor a voice of their own by setting up a Poverty Truth Commission.

The calls came from community worker and Methodist lay minister Nick Waterfield, speaking at a conference in the city to mark the 40th anniversary of the founding of the national ecumenical Christian social justice charity Church Action on Poverty (CAP).

Setting up a Poverty Truth Commission for Sheffield was long overdue, said Mr Waterfield. It would give those affected by poverty a voice in changing policies so that they would gain direct benefits.

Mr Waterfield went on to call for higher wages and benefits for the worst off and echoed demands from Gill Furniss, Labour MP for Brightside and Hillsborough, who told the conference the Government should act to end the need for food banks.

Gill Furniss praised the work that food banks were doing, but added: “Food banks shouldn’t be there in an economy that is as wealthy as ours.”

Mr Waterfield said he was angry to still be running a food aid store after 12 years.

 

“I was told in 2010 there would be five years of austerity and 12 years later I am still doing it,” Mr Waterfield told the conference.

“We need to be saying the solution is more money in people’s pockets – and not through tax cuts. That’s not what I am talking about. I’m talking about real
money. I am talking about wages. I am talking about benefit levels.”

Mr Waterfield angrily dismissed soon to be ex-Prime Minister Liz Truss’ assertion that the way out of the cost of living crisis was to grow the nation’s economic ‘pie.’

“Do you remember how we were meant to be going to grow the pie and if we grow the pie we’ll all be better off because as we grow the pie your slice will be
bigger?” Mr Waterfield asked.

“They are wrong to say it is about the size of the pie. They are absolutely wrong
because, quite frankly we can’t actually afford to grow some of the pie, because of climate change, So where does that leave people? Well it leaves
people saying: We need a bigger slice.”

“It’s about redistributing the wealth from people who have far too much to even know what to do with and to put that back into the hands of not just individuals,
but into communities, into our public services, into our health service, into
our education.”

Speaker at Conference

Earlier in the conference, responding to questions, Gill Furniss said conditions in her Brightside and Hillsborough constituency had worsened in recent years.

“Things have most definitely got worse in the last five years,” she said.

“I grew up on Parson Cross, I went to Chaucer School, we never had a great deal of money when I was a child but we all got by and now there is dire poverty and there has been for a long time.

“Since I was elected six and a half years ago, we have handled 27,000 individual cases for people who needed us in some shape or form – not all poverty, other issues as well, but issues that they didn’t feel they could deal with on their own.”

“It does break your heart sometimes to see how some individuals have to lead their lives. It is totally unacceptable that, in this day and age, there is any poverty at all. There shouldn’t be any; we are the fifth largest economy in the world,” she said.

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Speaking Truth to Power

As we launch our new 'Speaking Truth to Power' programme, programme coordinator Anna Hamill reflects on her fist visits to some of our partners.

Speaking Truth to Power

The Speaking Truth to Power programme is being piloted in Liverpool and Peckham. Felicity (our Pantries and Self-Reliant Groups Development Facilitator) and I have been out and about, visiting some of the Your Local Pantry partners that will be involved.

Liverpool

We started our visits during Challenge Poverty Week England & Wales, visiting two Pantries in Liverpool with our local host, Lee from St. Andrews Community Network. First stop was St. George’s Pantry where we met with Naomi from Feeding Liverpool who showed us around the beautiful church which hosts the pantry. There was a great buzz about the place, with plenty of space for people to sit, chat and enjoy a cup of tea. One of the brilliant volunteers even let me be a personal shopper for a member, which tested my memory skills! It was great to sit down and chat with Naomi and Lee, and get planning the next steps for the Speaking Truth to Power project and how it will look in Liverpool. 

Lee took us to Vauxhall Pantry next, which was a hive of activity! It was a pleasure to meet the Pantry coordinator, Pauline who shared the wide range of activities that are on offer to Pantry members at the amazing Vauxhall Neighbourhood Council. A lot of what was being run was due to local people seeing a need and getting stuck in. Pauline talked us through some of the issues members of the Pantry are facing and it was really clear how much the volunteers and members enjoyed coming together. 

These two Pantries showed us there is such a vibrant and engaged community in Liverpool, and everyone’s enthusiasm shone through!

Lee and Naomi during Challenge Poverty Week at St. George’s Pantry, Everton, Liverpool

London

After an early start, Felicity and I headed to London partners Pecan, in Peckham. It was the first time I had met Chris, Sharon & Flora in person, and we were able to have a really productive chat about starting the Speaking Truth to Power project through their pantry members. We also went to the Peckham Pantry, and met Pantry manager Temi. Her passion and knowledge were fantastic and she fostered a strong sense of unity at the Pantry from the volunteers. What struck me was how different and varied the Pantries can be, but they are all tied together by the fantastic workers, volunteers and members.

Felicity, Temi and Anna outside Peckham Pantry

On our second day in London, we visited Kingston Pantry based in Tolworth Rec Centre to put in time as a volunteer. We were met by Pantry manager Susan, and three volunteers, who were friendly and welcoming. Felicity took on the role of personal shopper and I welcomed members, offering them a hot drink and a piece of homemade flapjack. It was hard to believe this pantry had only been open eight weeks when we visited as everything ran so smoothly! It was great to get a better understanding of being a Pantry volunteer, and it was really clear how much the members valued going to the Pantry. Susan knew everyone by name, and all members came away with their shopping bags overflowing! Felicity and I spoke to the volunteers about the Speaking Truth to Power project and they shared how valuable having a space to campaign would be for members. 

Felicity and Anna with Susan and the volunteers at Kingston Pantry

After these fantastic Pantry visits, it really feels like the Speaking Truth to Power programme is beginning to take off! Going to visit the Pantries has just made me more excited for this project, but now I can continue with a better understanding of what the Pantries mean to their communities.

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Your Local Pantry could be coming to a neighbourhood near you. Read on...

Your Local Pantry and Co-op have teamed up to treble the Pantry network within three years.

Today, there are 75 Pantries around the UK. That figure will rise to 225.

This Q&A aims to answer any questions you may have…

A blue bunting flag with the Coop and Your Local Pantry logos

1) What are Your Local Pantries?

Your Local Pantries are places that soften the blow of high living costs and bring people together around food.

Pantries strengthen communities, foster friendships, loosen the grip of poverty and contribute to healthier, happier lives.

Everyone should have ready access to good food, and everyone values community. Pantries are a win-win solution.

Each Pantry has a defined geographic area, and local residents can become members. Members pay a small amount each week, and in return, they choose at least ten items of food or other groceries, worth many times more.

Pantries are laid out like shops, and members choose their own items from a wide selection, including fresh, refrigerated, frozen and long-life foods. 

Each Pantry is run by a local organisation. Pantry hosts include community groups, charities, churches and local councils.

2) What makes Your Local Pantries special?

Several things – but here are three…

Firstly, the local membership model is really conducive to new relationships and friendships. Seeing people week after week, getting to know one another and discussing local issues with each other generates real power, camaraderie and togetherness.

As a result, many Pantries become springboards for new ideas that further strengthen communities.

Secondly, the element of choice is really important. It can be very hard to feel dignified and positive if you are receiving a pre-packed parcel that someone else has chosen.

We all have things we do or don’t like in our shopping, and are all accustomed to being able to make those choices. The Pantry approach recognises how important that is.

Thirdly, Pantries are positive, upbeat, happy places – the friendships that form, the ongoing financial boost, and the chance to be part of a forward-looking group all help to propel communities onwards.

3) How much do members save?

A Your Local Pantry member who attends every week can save in the region of £1,000 a year on their groceries.

Each Pantry sets its own weekly contribution amount, and not all members attend every week, so precise savings vary.

InterACT Pantry in Leeds: a green shipping container, with three people outside

4) How big is the network now?

At the time of writing, in late 2022, we have 75 Pantries, supporting about 80,000 people. 

5) Where are Pantries at the moment?

There are Pantries in all four nations of the UK. 

There are particular clusters in Edinburgh, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and South Wales.

6) Where will the new Pantries be?

That’s down to you! We are in discussions with lots of potential new partners, including in North East England, the west of Scotland, and Yorkshire. 

But we are ready to support openings anywhere in the UK!

We don’t unilaterally decide where to open a Pantry. Each Pantry is hosted and run by a local organisation, so the starting point is for an organisation to approach us.

Inside Your Local Pantry in Peckham.

7) I'm interested in opening a Pantry. What should I do?

If you are an individual, the best starting point is for you to talk to a local organisation who you think would be a good Pantry host. They need to be based in the community, with the physical space to host a Pantry.

Once you’ve done that, or if you are already part of a local organisation, let us know – we’d love to chat!

8) Where does the food come from?

A lot of the stock at Pantries comes via diversions in the national food supply chain, such as surpluses from producers or big retailers. The national charity Fareshare redirects those back into Pantries and other community-focused initiatives. Pantries also work with smaller local suppliers and producers, and can also use the money collected from memberships to buy additional stock when needed.

9) What do Pantry members say about it?

Good question! See for yourself! This video, and others on the playlist, include lots of first-hand messages from Pantry members around the country. 

You can also take a look at our 2021 social impact report, which includes lots of comments from members.

Members tell us they have joined for a wide variety of reasons…. Many say they enjoy being part of a community and meeting new people, some have environmental motives and are glad to be helping to reduce the risk of food being wasted, others primarily cherish the financial boost, freeing up money for other essentials. 

A blue bunting flag with the Coop and Your Local Pantry logos
A blue bunting flag with the Coop and Your Local Pantry logos

Be part of a movement that’s reclaiming dignity, agency and power

SPARK newsletter summer 2024

Church on the Margins reports

Church Action on Poverty North East annual report 2022-24

Stories that challenge: Sarah and Rosie’s health

Dreams & Realities: welcome to an incredible exhibition

Building hopes and dreams in Bootle

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7 ways a Your Local Pantry could help YOUR community in 2024

SRG member Rahela gives a cookery demonstration

Food and cookery bring us together. and unleash our potential - just like SRGs.

Julia Turshen, the American author and food equity advocate, describes cooking as a “constant reminder of transformation and possibility”. 

In her book, Feed The Resistance, she writes: “Cooking shows us over and over again that we can make things happen, we can make change happen, with just our own hands. Food is metaphor personified and within that there is reaffirmation of what we can accomplish.”

SRG member Rahela gives a cookery demonstration

SRGs bring people together

Self Reliant Groups, like the ones we partner with in Greater Manchester, Leeds and South Wales, do just that: they bring people together to make change happen – often around food.

Members of Self Reliant Groups (or SRGs, as we call them) save together, come up with ideas together, and create together. Some focus on crafts and arts, others focus on food.

In the photos on this page, SRG member Rahela Khan gives a cookery demonstration at the recent Your Local Pantry conference, using recipes from fellow group members. 

SRG member Rahela gives a cookery demonstration

Self Reliant Groups feature on the November page of the 2022 Dignity, Agency, Power photo calendar, because they are a heartening community success story from the past few years. SRGs show us that amazing things happen when people come together and work together.

SRG member Rahela gives a cookery demonstration

What is a Self Reliant Group?

A Self-Reliant Group (SRG) is:

  • A group of friends who support each other and meet regularly.
  • A group that is independent of funders and doesn’t have to tick anyone else’s boxes. It makes its own decisions.
  • A group that shares skills and learns together.
  • A group that saves together (small, manageable amounts like £1 per week) and has the potential to become a business.

Church Action on Poverty supports SRGs, with help to get started, sharing and signposting for ideas, learning and queries, networking with others in the SRG movement, and by sharing inspiration from other groups.

What you can do:

Self Reliant Group members from Greater Manchester and North West England recently produced their own recipe book. You can buy it here. 

If you are interested in learning more about SRGs, or potentially setting one up, you can email Joyce at Church Action on Poverty.

 

Be part of a movement that’s reclaiming dignity, agency and power

SPARK newsletter summer 2024

Church on the Margins reports

Church Action on Poverty North East annual report 2022-24

Stories that challenge: Sarah and Rosie’s health

Dreams & Realities: welcome to an incredible exhibition

Building hopes and dreams in Bootle

Heaton Moor United Church and Heald Green URC church-led event featured the book “Dignity, Agency, Power!"

The book “Dignity, Agency, Power!” is a collaboration between Church Action on Poverty and Wild Goose Publications.

Dignity Agency Power

At Heaton Moor on 19th October, the evening began with a meal cooked in a bag! This is a fabulous way of cooking, using residual heat and good insulation, will be especially useful now heat prices are increasing.

There was inspirational poetry from Rahela Kahn, one of the book’s contributors, and an entertaining rendition of the parable of Max and Dan, a story about the use of power based on Jesus’ saying to “walk another mile”.

People at Book Launch

Visitors from a local charity SMASH (School meals every holiday) told us about the amazing work they did too.

 

The following week, Heald Green URC church also shared readings from the book, including video presentations from people with experience of living in poverty. The group present decided to write to their MP about pre-payment energy metres. The people who buy their fuel this way are often the poorest, end up paying more for their energy, and are the last to get discounts and rebates.

 

People at Book Launch

This was followed by a writing workshop in which participants created their own thoughtful pieces based on the #ChallengePoverty week theme of Living not just existing; dignity for all.

 

People at Book Launch

Some of the pieces produced are also included in this
newsletter.

Thank you to Heaton Moor United Church and Heald Green URC church for giving us pause for thought about how we should #ChallengePoverty and work for dignity to all. 

Article written by Liz Delafield

 

Be part of a movement that’s reclaiming dignity, agency and power

SPARK newsletter summer 2024

Church on the Margins reports

Church Action on Poverty North East annual report 2022-24

Stories that challenge: Sarah and Rosie’s health

Dreams & Realities: welcome to an incredible exhibition

Building hopes and dreams in Bootle