Church Action on Poverty’s ‘Food, Fuel, Finance’ programme is looking for creative, grassroots ideas that can help people on low incomes to pay fair prices for everyday necessities.
Over recent months we’ve uncovered all kinds of exciting projects and ideas in communities across the UK. We’re now reflecting on them all and considering how we can best help to share the approaches more widely.
While we complete that process, we’d like to share with you some of the inspirational ideas we’ve been exploring, in a series of blogs. This post will look at solutions to food poverty.
(Click here to read our post about funeral poverty.)
Community Shop – the social supermarket
Community Shop in Lambeth in London is the UK’s first full-scale social supermarket, the start of a national roll-out programme after a successful pilot store opened in Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire, in 2013. It’s a new idea in the UK, but elsewhere in Europe and North America ‘social supermarkets’ have long been thriving.
Community Shops sell low-cost, high-quality surplus food to hundreds of people on income support while helping them back into work, with support from the local authority. Community Shops work on a membership basis. Membership is open to people who live locally and receive income support. Members can shop for surplus food at 70 per cent cheaper than usual prices. They also enrol on a tailored professional development programme – called The Success Plan – which aims to raise their self-confidence and job prospects. In Goldthorpe, one in five members who completed training have already found work. The services are funded from revenue raised by the sale of the food.
The model was highlighted in the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger’s Feeding Britain report as one that should be developed to “make a real and positive difference to people’s living standards”.
Penny Lane Pantry
Penny Lane Pantry is a similar initiative to Community Shop, set up by the social landlord Stockport Homes in partnership with Fareshare. The scheme allows residents in Stockport to access heavily discounted foods including cereal, juice squash, soups and vegetables – all for just £2 a week. The pantry has also recently started stocking toiletries and other essentials. People are allowed up to 10 items a week using colour-coded charts, often totalling £15 retail value.
Stock is procured through donations or heavy discounts for bulk buying. The Pantry is run through a dedicated volunteer system, often using volunteers who were previously unemployed for a significant period of time themselves and allowing them to gain crucial skills that could lead to employment.
Fair Food Carlisle
Fair Food Carlisle works to link local food producers with local people so that they can directly buy good quality, environmentally sensitive food, at prices fair to producers and consumers alike. They focus on producers within a 30-mile radius of Carlisle.
The scheme links producers to individuals or to collective buying groups in workplaces, community centres or neighbourhoods. Members can then place an order for any of the products available on the website. The food is delivered weekly to the workplace or an agreed address at a specific time. They offer vegetables, eggs, meat and salad, plus special items such as strawberries in season, beer, preserves and cakes.
They offer training, support and discounts to ‘buying advocates’, who gather and co-ordinate a group. They also offer members 20% off if they introduce a friend, or if they order more than £10 of produce every week for 4 weeks or more.
The scheme also runs the Fair Food Café, an outlet for local produce that offers ’suspended meals’, held for people in need to be used at their request and paid for by anonymous donors in the café. And their Fair Meals Direct service gets hearty, healthy, locally-produced food to people in Carlisle and Penrith who struggle to make meals for themselves.
Can Cook is an initiative on Merseyside which is developing three community food hubs that will provide emergency food and also support communities to find their own routes out of food poverty. The Hubs will offer a community space based around food and cookery skills. There will be a cookery studio, community dining room, bake house and a community shop in each Hub.
The Hubs will be closely linked to Can Cook’s ‘Food Aid Plus’ project, which aims to educate donors, ensure healthier food is available to all food bank users, and provide people with the skills and support to move out of food poverty
They have also developed the ‘Food We Need Box’, a step up from the current food bank parcel which includes fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses, store cupboard ingredients, and recipes. They hope to roll out cookery training with the food banks that they work with.
Can Cook’s Food Hubs and Food Aid Plus are in discussions about discounted bulk buying of fresh fruit and vegetables with the GOOP project, a consortium of horticultural projects operating in prisons, probation-approved premises and community payback projects across the North West.
Our Urban Shop
Our Urban Shop provides business advice and financial support to urban communities that are making progress towards setting up community-owned shops for local residents, that will stock food and basic provisions.
The shops provide better access to food and a wide range of other opportunities- including volunteering to gain new skills, gaining employment opportunities, and being part of a community that’s working together.
Pilot projects are already happening in:
• Grange Park estate, Blackpool
• Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne
• Somers Town, Camden, London
• Ely & Caerau, Cardiff
• Ruchazie, Glasgow
• Bootle, Merseyside
• Windmill Hill, Bristol
• Park Springs, Gainsborough
• Princes Park, Toxteth, Liverpool
• Sutton, London
The Real Junk Food Project
The Real Junk Food Project in Leeds aims to combat food waste as well as food poverty through the establishment of a chain of social cafes offering goods that would otherwise have been thrown away by supermarkets, independent grocers and food banks.
They use a ‘pay as you feel’ policy – customers pay what they feel they can, and if that is nothing, they can help with the washing up. The idea has inspired 47 other ‘pay as you feel’ cafés to spring in the past few months in Manchester, Bristol, and Saltaire – with the concept even exported as far away as Los Angeles and Brazil, Warsaw and Zurich.
The ‘pay as you feel’ concept has already been proven in the US by ‘One World Everybody Eats’, a US non-profit community kitchen and foundation, and the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen Community Restaurant in New Jersey. There are a number of other Pay What You Want restaurants in the US, some of which are charitable arms of mainstream restaurant chains. That they break even and so are commercially sustainable ‘not-for-profits’; and they serve the same food as their mainstream restaurants, avoiding any stigma issues that might arise with ‘restaurants for the poor’.
In the UK, the concept of Pay What You Want is beginning to catch on in the mainstream restaurant market, and is increasingly used as a marketing and promotional tool in sectors as diverse as music recording, video games and design agencies.