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Posted on 5th December 2023

Feeding Britain and Your Local Pantry: Working with households to build dignity, hope and choice

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Feeding Britain, Your Local Pantry and others are working together to prevent hunger, offer dignity and choice, and co-design a national exit strategy from dependence on foodbanks.

The past few years have presented a great many challenges for the country, felt perhaps most keenly by people on low incomes. We know that all too many households are struggling to afford even the basic costs of living. We hear from parents who are skipping meals to feed their children; from people who are needing to seek support for the first time in their lives; from pensioners who are making the choice between heating and eating; and from people working multiple jobs, who are still unable to make ends meet. 

But across the country, people are coming together around food and with a shared determination to help make change happen. Communities, friends and neighbours are sharing their resolve and ideas – and across the voluntary and community sector new partnerships are being forged and innovative models of food support are being introduced. 

Feeding Britain and Your Local Pantry are working to develop Pantries which provide members with access to nutritious food, in a dignified setting, with wraparound support on site. In return for a few pounds each visit, Pantry members can fill their baskets with a broad range of fresh, chilled or frozen, longlife, and household goods, often valued at around £25. Members save £21 per visit on average, and this helps them to stretch their budgets further, and keep their heads above water from week to week.

But Pantries are about so much more than financial savings. Pantries also help members to build dignity, economic independence and choice, and prevent people from needing to rely on crisis food parcels. They also strengthen people’s sense of belonging and being connected to their community, and have been shown to improve physical and mental health, and food variety. Wraparound support services address additional issues that people are facing, to help them back on their feet long-term.

Both Feeding Britain and Your Local Pantry are seeing the impact of these projects. As one member said: “This place helps so much, it just takes that little bit of pressure off. I don’t think I would be coping very well without it. It feels more like a community shop than a foodbank, that takes pressure off too – it makes it easier to walk through the door.” 

In Merthyr Tydfil – an area where 10% of adults have gone hungry, and 28% have struggled to access food – Your Local Pantry and Feeding Britain are working together to support the Hope Pantry, which is part of the Your Local Pantry Network. This Pantry is open two days per week, and members pay £3.50 per visit. Support from Feeding Britain has enabled Hope Pantry to secure a reliable, local, high quality supply of fruit and vegetables to serve their 224 Pantry members, as well as to pilot a similar arrangement for meat – adding to the sense of being a food co-operative which combines members’ collective purchasing power to improve their access to low-cost but good food.

Heidi, the Hope Pantry Manager told us: “Hope Pantry is much more than just food, it’s grown into a community, where members have made friends, look out for each other, share life together. The impact on the well-being of our members is financial, physical & emotional. 

Partnering with both YLP and Feeding Britain has added value to our pantry. We have good working relationships with a number of local businesses, having been able to trial weekly purchasing of fruit & veg, as well as more recently fresh butcher meat. This is important to us, to keep money in the local economy, and provide healthy nutritious food. Both have resulted in longer term weekly arrangements with the suppliers.”

The greengrocer that supplies Hope Pantry with produce says: “I didn’t know such a provision existed, it’s good to be able to help with fresh seasonal fruit & vegetables. Knowing we have a regular order with the pantry is very helpful to us as a small business.”

Feeding Britain and Your Local Pantry feel that projects like the Hope Pantry could play a crucial role in a future shaped by dignity, hope and choice; and help to prevent another decade of lengthening queues for, and growing dependency upon, emergency food parcels.

Find out more about Your Local Pantry here: https://www.yourlocalpantry.co.uk/

And Feeding Britain here: https://feedingbritain.org/