Stories from Lockdown: Your Local Pantry

Your Local Pantry is a franchise project set up by Foundations Stockport in partnership with Church Action on Poverty. Residents in need in the community pay a small weekly fee of £3.50. In return, they can visit their local pantry and choose ten items of food each week for them and their family. The value of a typical food basket is around £20, saving members hundreds of pounds a year.

There are five Your Local Pantries in operation in Stockport, with a total of more than 40 across the country as a whole. This includes one of our other community food members, Lighthouse Pantry in Middleton.

The pantries run on the ethos that people have the ability to choose their own food and enjoy a tea or coffee with others while at the pantry, which helps to tackle social isolation and build a sense of community.

It helps our food budget go further, which in turn leads to less stress, also there’s a social side to it. There’s a group of us who always meet up now, we go to Pantry together, have a brew together, we’ve become great friends, and we’re from three different generations! That’s great for people’s mental wellbeing.

 

A member of Brinnington Pantry, Stockport

Flexible and adaptive

During the pandemic, Your Local Pantry had to adapt its model significantly. As a result, they teamed up with Stockport Council to provide emergency parcels to anyone struggling for food. From March to June, they delivered 4,756 food parcels to households that were vulnerable or self-isolating. This includes:

  • processing 1,277 emergency referrals and;
  • delivering 2,792 food parcels to people at home within 24 hours of the referral.

This was an amazing achievement, considering they are:

  • dependent on volunteers and;
  • must switch to an entirely new model in such a short space of time.

During the summer holidays, they also provided over 500 free packed lunches to families in the area. In addition, they recently piloted a new family membership scheme to provide a little bit more to families in need.

Since the pandemic, there has been an influx of 10-15 new members sign up each week. Accordingly, the five pantries in Stockport now regularly support around 200 households.

The impact of the change

Without FareShare GM we wouldn’t have been able to operate on the scale we have been during the pandemic. They have provided fantastic amounts of food which reached hundreds of people within the borough. It’s just myself, the pantry assistant and our volunteers, so without the food coming in or being delivered we wouldn’t have been able to sustain the pantry model. 

We get brilliant feedback from our members about the food. What people really love about what we receive from FareShare is the variety. They love the aspect of never quite knowing what they’ll get, that’s the beauty of it! I want to say thank you so much to FareShare GM and all the volunteers that help day in, day out. Without them we wouldn’t be able to open. We’re now looking to set up another pantry in Stockport so FareShare GM’s support will be vital for us as we move forward.

 

Elena Vacca, Community Food Officer

You can read more about the great work of Your Local Pantry across the country in their 2021 Social Impact Report.

Elena (right) and pantry assistant Maz, taken before COVID-19
Your Local Pantry’s partner, First Stop Café in Brinnington, provided meals during the school holidays

 

The food waste hierarchy calls for food to feed people first

Food companies are legally obliged to use food to feed people before sending to anaerobic digestion or for animal feed. We help them use their surplus to feed people first.