“We will work with all those groups who aim to eliminate the destruction of edible food while some of our fellow citizens go hungry. A longer term intervention to counter Britain’s vulnerability to hunger is the social supermarket.” – Feeding Britain Report 2015-2016
Citizens’ Supermarkets are community led shops where people can purchase good quality nutritious food at low cost, and access support to transition from a food crisis to long term food security.
Citizens’ Supermarkets have been identified as an important part of the solution to food poverty. They bridge the gap between an acute food crisis, which may currently be addressed by emergency food handouts, and being able to regularly purchase nutritional food at mainstream retailers. Crucially, Citizens’ supermarkets also provide a space where broader, wraparound support is offered, such as job skills training, debt and benefits advice, and social activities.
How are Citizens’ Supermarkets 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 address underlying causes and bring about more sustainable solutions. Citizens’ Supermarkets offer a novel approach that will help people move beyond an immediate crisis in a way that recognises their dignity and agency. At the shops, people pay for their shopping, albeit at much reduced prices, 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 who can help to get them back on their feet.
The local solution to unlocking food surplus
Several models of community led food aid projects 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. Citizens’ Supermarkets allow local organisations to engage with local food suppliers to build a collaborative 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 pilots 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. Citizens’ Supermarkets 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.