The first affordable food club developed by Feeding Britain, Number Seven, was opened in Birkenhead in October 2018.
It now serves a membership of 1,200 households, of whom 700 visit at least once a week. Last year, members saved a collective total of £500,000 on food and other essentials (including nutritious meals which are cooked in the on-site community cafe and can then be heated up at home), and the project utilised 30,000kg of food which would otherwise have gone to waste. The project, along with the broader network of social supermarkets operating within the Feeding Birkenhead Supporting Wirral programme, has helped to prevent at least some of the need for food banks and other forms of crisis provision.
Since opening four years ago, Number Seven has created 45 employment and volunteering opportunities, and helped eight people move from long-term unemployment into a permanent job. Moreover, every morning, Number Seven opens early to support the local homeless and vulnerably housed community, offering them a free packed lunch, hot meal and a hot or cold drink, as a takeaway service. On average, this service is provided to 55 people per day, six days a week. Each Thursday, Involve NorthWest Community Connectors come in and engage with them to understand how they may be able to help with their current position, with some initial success in resolving difficulties.
The following examples demonstrate how Number Seven has gone beyond being a lifeline, to being truly life changing:
1. ‘J’, 48, ex-alcoholic in recovery with financial and mental health issues. She started as a member with Number Seven using the social supermarket and on-site community café on a daily basis. After becoming friendly with staff members, ‘J’ decided to try volunteering. This helped with her mental health issues by having something to do each day, also giving her a safe place to regain her confidence again after losing her previous job due to alcoholism. She quickly became an invaluable and popular member of the team and attended many social events with her colleagues. Volunteering also helped ‘J’ financially due to being able to access a bag of food after each shift, which enabled ‘J’ to pay off debts and manage her bills. After volunteering for 18 months and building her confidence up to work again, she found paid employment.
2. ‘N’, 28, struggling single mother of four. She has mental health issues, and on occasions struggles to leave her home. She has been a member of the social supermarket since it opened in 2018. Before ‘N’ found Number Seven, she would have to skip meals so her four children could eat daily. She now shops here on average twice a week, this has enabled her to feed herself and family nutritious meals on a small budget every day. Recently ‘N’ has told us due to the money she is saving whilst shopping with us she has been able to send her eldest child on a residential school trip. Number Seven has also supported ‘N’ at Christmas time when we were donated a large number of children’s toys. ‘N’ cried with relief as that year she was struggling to get her kids anything for Christmas. When her mental health keeps her from leaving her home, Number Seven has delivered to her on a number of occasions.
3. ‘M’, 52, full-time carer for her adult son who has a life long illness after being diagnosed with haemophilia as a teenager. ‘M’ has to take her son to Liverpool Aintree Hospital for treatment twice a week via public transport, which involves one train and two buses. This puts crippling financial strain on the family. ‘M’ used to regularly skip meals to be able to afford the journey with her son. ‘M’ now shops with Number Seven weekly and manages to provide three meals a day for them both. Also, in recent months we have ensured ‘M’ received direct help with money management and debt advice.
4. ‘C’, 34, shared custody for his two young sons. ‘C’ was working full time until he lost his job due to the pandemic. As a result, he very nearly got evicted from his home and was unable to have his children due to not being able to feed them, nor could he afford electricity for his home. He then fell into depression and found everything in life was hard. ‘C’ was introduced to Number Seven through a local advice agency. At first, we gave him an emergency hamper. ‘C’ now shops regularly with us and is able to have shared custody of his children again due to being able to afford food. He also brings his children in to the community café for a nice meal, especially in the school holidays when Number Seven offers a ‘kids eat free’ menu, which they all thoroughly enjoy.