A key priority for Feeding Britain is to establish, maintain, and support Affordable Food Networks which improve access to affordable nutritious food, alongside wraparound support, for people on low incomes.
Affordable Food Network models range from citizens’ supermarkets and social supermarkets, to food buses and food clubs, depending on the needs and circumstances of the local area.
Each variation of the model entails a weekly basket of food and essentials being made available, on a membership basis, for a fraction of what these items would cost in a regular supermarket, so as to help people on low incomes stretch their budget further every week and avoid descending into a crisis situation which triggers the need for emergency support from a food bank.
A crucial part of the offer at each Affordable Food Network is specialist support to enable members to move towards longer term food security and financial resilience. In addition, projects aim to offer social activities based around food, as well as food growing schemes.
Among the Affordable Food Networks being established, maintained, or supported by Feeding Britain are:
– Citizens’ Supermarkets in Birkenhead, Bradford, Coventry, Glasgow, Sheffield, Thetford, and Weymouth
– Social Supermarkets and Pantries in Belle Vale, Birkenhead, Halewood, Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, and Wallasey.
– Food Clubs in Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, and Leeds.
– Food Buses in London and South Shields.
– Meeting Places across West Cheshire
In total, these Affordable Food Networks are currently supporting more than 3,000 members each week. To find out more about these hubs, read our briefing here.
How are Affordable Food Networks different from food banks?
While food banks have played an important role in addressing an urgent need for emergency food, the objective of Feeding Britain has always been to find ways to prevent emergency needs arising and bring about more sustainable solutions.
Affordable Food Networks offer a unique approach which helps people either avoid or move beyond an immediate crisis, in a way that recognises their dignity and agency. People pay for their shopping, albeit at much reduced prices through their membership, and are able to choose the products they need. Alongside affordable food, they are able to access support services in a welcoming environment and can build relationships with local organisations that provide specialist help.
The local solution to unlocking food surplus
Several Affordable Food Network models exist, with some impressive results. However, there are challenges, particularly around cost, access, suitable forms of community ownership, and the sustainability of the food supply. Affordable Food Networks enable local organisations to engage with local food suppliers to build a collaborative and community-led solution to food poverty. While progress has been made to tap into quality surplus food on a national scale, we are still only rescuing a tiny proportion of the food that is wasted every year. Alternative approaches which focus on local supply chains could help to unlock the huge amounts of food that continues to be thrown away.
A social environment with wraparound support
Experience across the Feeding Britain network has shown that success in addressing the root causes of hunger is greatest where the provision of food is combined with wider wraparound support and genuine social interaction. Affordable Food Networks are places where people can come together and feel welcome without stigma and build genuine long term relationships. In this environment people are empowered to access a range of support in ways that are comfortable, and as a community we can begin to address longer term challenges.