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Food pantries giving hope to struggling families

by Donna Birrell

New research by Church Action on Poverty has found people who use a network of church-run food pantries in the UK are saving up to £1,000 a year on groceries.

Around 35,000 people use the pantries, paying between £3.50 and £7 a week for ten grocery items of their choice.

The charity says users are saving about £21 a week — improving the lives of up to 90,000 people, including children.

Director of Church Action on Poverty told Premier more about the pantries: “A food pantry is a membership-based food club. So people join their local pantry, they pay a small weekly fee when they go and do the shopping. It’s more like a shopping experience, you go with a basket, you choose the items that you want. There’s always a full range of food, including fresh fruit and veg, frozen and chilled food.

“We make the barriers to joining very minimal. When you sign up, you sign a form and you say that you're struggling. But that's it. We don't use referrals and we don't ask people to make any evidence. That’s because the key principle centres around dignity. These are important community hubs and anybody in that neighbourhood that feels that they want to be a member, who feels they can benefit from the service is able to join, and lots of people come because they recommended by friends and neighbours. So it's very much a kind of a community owned provision.

I think people really value being a member of a pantry, not just for the food, but for the social value.. It does a lot for people's mental health. So it does a lot to tackle food waste, because a lot of the food is surplus food that otherwise might go to waste.”

Church Action on Poverty surveyed almost 1,150 pantry members across nine pantries.


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