THE number of community pantries, which provide sustainable access to food for low-income households, has more than doubled during the pandemic, a report released last week by Church Action on Poverty suggests.
Community pantries, some hosted by churches, offer heavily subsidised goods to low-income households, who pay between £3.50 and £5 to shop there each week. Pantries offer longer-term support rather than the crisis support offered by foodbanks, and are designed to supplement rather than replace regular food shopping.
Since March 2020, the number of pantries has more than doubled: 21 new pantries have been set up since April 2020. Niall Cooper, the director of Church Action on Poverty, which runs the Your Local Pantry network, said: “The growth of Your Local Pantry represents a further flourishing of the community-led mutual-aid movement which has a long history in the UK, and which has very much come back to the fore in response to the coronavirus crisis.
“They are a move away from the foodbank model, with its focus on charitable emergency food handouts, towards a more sustainable long-term response to food poverty. More than this, Pantry members are able to save money, improve their health and well-being, and rebuild community.”
The report, Dignity, Agency, Hope, surveyed 490 pantry members and 24 pantries from Edinburgh to the West Midlands. Nearly 5000 households are members of a Local Pantry.
Of those asked, 95 per cent said that they had saved money and liked being able to choose their own food; three-quarters said that it had improved their mental health; and 59 per cent said that they now ate less processed food.
The report estimates that a household using a pantry weekly would save £780 a year.
Natalie, a volunteer and a member of a pantry at St George’s, Everton, in Liverpool, said: “Being a member has really helped me, especially in the last month, as I was made redundant. Some people feel ashamed going to foodbanks — you feel you are getting labelled. In the pantry, you are actually paying for stuff.
“I’ve seen people during lockdown who were struggling, people who were scared to come out of the house, and, coming up here, it might be the only time they see someone in the week.”