Your Local Pantry opens to help tackle food poverty in Stoke-on-Trent

People in Stoke-on-Trent will be able to save on their weekly shopping bills, thanks to a new project that opens this week.

YMCA North Staffordshire has set up the Your Local Pantry @YMCANS, to be run and used by local people, at the Campus Shop. It will be officially launched on Friday, 6 March 2020. The project is the latest in the growing Your Local Pantry network.

Daniel Flynn, CEO of YMCA North Staffordshire, said: “We are partnering with “Your Local Pantry” a community shop idea birthed by the Church Action on Poverty in Manchester as a way to make sure people in economically challenged areas, blighted by austerity can have access to reasonably priced food. The difference is that this model takes a community membership approach, members pay £3.50 a week and are guaranteed £12.00 worth of items. YMCA North Staffordshire believes people are the asset and our membership model helps to strengthen and grow each other to begin to thrive.”

Pantries are membership-based food clubs that enable people to access food at a small fraction of its usual supermarket price, improving household food security and freeing up more money for other essential household costs such as rent and utilities. The weekly fee at Your Local Pantry @YMCANS is £3.50 for which members will be able to choose ten items, with a total value of around £12.

So far, 53 members have signed up, and YMCA North Staffordshire plans for that to increase to 150 in due course.

Pantries are sustainable, long-term, community-led solutions that can loosen the grip of food poverty in a particular neighbourhood. They can be part of a progressive journey to help people move beyond foodbank use, or can help reduce a family’s need for a foodbank.

They provide members with more choice over the food they get than is possible at food banks, and are controlled by the members, strengthening the community’s ability to prevent food poverty or to progress out of food crisis.

Pantries source their food from a variety of sources, such as supermarket surplus via food recycling charity Fareshare, and by developing relationships with local food businesses who offer surplus food, which helps to reduce food waste and puts savings in the hands of people who are struggling to cover their weekly outgoings, potentially creating a virtuous circle.

Stockport Homes and the charity Church Action on Poverty are supporting the roll-out of pantries across the UK, under the banner of Your Local Pantry, after initial projects in Stockport were shown to have brought social, financial and health benefits including reducing isolation, averting food poverty and improving local people’s mental health. An impact report last year found pantry members had saved £650 a year on average on their shopping bills, and that every £1 invested in pantries generated £6 in social value.

Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, said: “Pantries are a great way for local people to come together, strengthen their community and loosen the grip of high prices. Rising living costs and stagnating incomes have made life increasingly difficult for many people, but pantries provide immediate, visible support that can protect people from being swept into poverty.”

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