Families in Preston are now able to save on their weekly shopping bills by signing up to a food pantry scheme.
The Intact Centre in Whitby Avenue, Ingol, has converted its food project into a community pantry, to be run and used by residents in the area.
Intact’s Community Supermarket has provided a valuable service for the past two years, but the pantry approach gives members more choice over the food they get, and more control, strengthening the community’s ability to prevent food poverty or to progress out of food crisis.
Pantries are membership-based food clubs that enable people to access food at a small fraction of its usual supermarket price.
The Intact Centre’s weekly fee is £3.50 for which members will be able to access approximately £25 of food, improving household food security and freeing up more money for other essential household costs such as rent and utilities.
The project, called Whitby’s Pantry, is able to source their food from a variety of sources, such as supermarket surplus via food recycling charity Fareshare, putting savings in the hands of people who are struggling to cover their weekly outgoings.
Pantries are sustainable, long-term, community-led solutions that can help reduce the growing need for a foodbank.
By developing relationships with local food businesses who offer surplus food, this helps to reduce food waste.
So far, 25 members have signed up, and the charity’s chief executive, Denise Hartley MBE, expects that to rise over the coming months.
She said: “Intact has been operating a Community Supermarket, a local food club, for two years, where Fare Share food, is bagged up by staff and volunteers and offered to local people.
“Since the introduction of a Lancashire wide ‘food partnership project’ provided by Lancashire County Council and Recycling lives, of which Intact is the agency provider for Preston, this club has proven to be very popular.
"Over the past two years around 200 members have accessed the food project 1,821 times and we currently have about 25 regulars that attend each week and we are hoping to be able to increase this to around 40-50 people.”
Win Leach, 70, volunteers at the pantry and is also a member.
She said: “I got involved with Intact a couple of years ago after I lost my husband. It’s a good community and you make friends here.
“The pantry is good value for money and it’s really useful. By being here, it frees up more money for people’s bills and other essential outgoings.
“Living costs are going up all the time and we are also finding that people are waiting for their first Universal Credit payments and are having to use food banks more and more.
“We had a community supermarket here before but it was pot luck what you got.
“Now, I can choose what I want. I think this will be a good asset for the community and there are a lot of people who it will help in the future.”
Megan Parker, 22, another member and volunteer, said: “When someone is on a low income, it’s good to have something to help you out with the shopping.
“The food is much lower cost and there’s a good community - it’s friendly people who always make you welcome.
“So instead of people staying in their homes, this helps people. If it was not here, you would spend more in the supermarkets.
“This is the only project like this in Preston and it wouldn’t be the same round here without something like this.
“This place really helps create something better for people.
“I’m a member of the pantry but I also volunteer and volunteering here has been one of the best things I have done in my life; I want to help people.”
Stockport Homes and the charity Church Action on Poverty is supporting the roll-out of pantries across the UK, under the banner of Your Local Pantry, after initial projects in Stockport brought social, financial and health benefits including reducing isolation, averting food poverty and improving mental health. Pantry members had saved £650 a year on their shopping bills, and every £1 invested in pantries generated £6 in social value.