Actor Steve Coogan officially opens new community food pantry in Middleton

Date published: 06 March 2019


Hundreds of people will be able to save on their weekly shopping bills, thanks to a new project that has opened in Middleton.

The Lighthouse Project, a drop-in style community support centre, has opened a community pantry, to be run and used by local people. Called the Lighthouse Pantry, it was officially opened on Monday (4 March) by the Lighthouse Project’s patron, Steve Coogan.

The project is the latest in the growing Your Local Pantry network.

Pantries are membership-based food clubs that enable people to access food at a small fraction of its usual supermarket price. The Lighthouse Pantry’s weekly fee is £3.50 and the current value of an average weekly visit for members is £26, which over a year could help families save in excess of £1,300 on food, which means they have more money available for other household costs – such as rent and utilities.

Mr Coogan said: “I am very happy to be opening the new Pantry for the Lighthouse project. It’s just another example of how everyone at the Lighthouse is helping people within their own community, helping people who have experienced setbacks through circumstances beyond their control.

“It’s my hope that, through The Lighthouse, the people of Middleton will be an example to other communities up and down the country to show that when people come together to help each other as a community, everybody benefits.

“I am grateful to be involved in my own small way.”

The Lighthouse Project’s pantry is part of its community hub located on the top floor of Middleton Shopping Centre, which means it is accessible to a wide range of people. So far 70 members have signed up, and the charity’s development manager, Carl Roach, hopes that number could rise to 150 over time, subject to securing sufficient sources of regular food stocks.

 

Carl Roach and Steve Coogan with volunteers Mark Fraser, Jean Watson and Bev Howarth
Steve Coogan (right) and Carl Roach (centre) with volunteers Mark Fraser, Jean Watson and Bev Howarth

 

Mr Roach said: “We could see that even after helping people pass through times of food crisis it was still difficult for them to fully make ends meet on limited income. When we came across the Pantry idea, we immediately saw that this could be a useful stepping-stone, helping people reduce their food costs, feed their families and keep more money in the household to pay other bills.

“It helps struggling families, it helps reduce supermarket food waste, and it demonstrates the power of community action for those who really value the support. It is just the kind of win-win project that we like to get involved with, which is one of the reasons we are happy to be part of the growing pantry movement.”

Pantries are sustainable, long-term, community-led solutions that can loosen the grip of food poverty in a particular neighbourhood. They can be part of a progressive journey to help people move beyond foodbank use or reduce a family’s need for a foodbank.

The Lighthouse Project runs both a foodbank and a pantry, and they see both projects as being part of a complementary offer, which helps people avoid food poverty, or to progress out of food crisis and back into self-management. Linked into its in-house debt and financial support service, these form an effective three-stranded cord of support.

The pantry gets its food from a variety of sources, such as supermarket surplus via food recycling charity Fareshare and FareshareGo, and by developing relationships with local food businesses who offer surplus food to the project, which helps to reduce food waste and puts savings in the hands of people who are struggling to cover their weekly outgoings. This is potentially a virtuous circle.

Stockport Homes and the charity Church Action on Poverty are supporting the roll-out of pantries across the UK, under the banner of Your Local Pantry, after initial projects in Stockport were shown to have brought social, financial and health benefits including reducing isolation, averting food poverty and improving local people’s mental health.

An impact report last year found pantry members had saved £650 a year on average on their shopping bills, and that every £1 invested in pantries generated £6 in social value.

Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, said: “Pantries are a great way for local people to come together, strengthen their community and loosen the grip of high prices. Rising living costs and stagnating incomes have made life increasingly difficult for many people, but pantries provide immediate, visible support that can protect people from being swept into poverty.”

Anybody interested in setting up a Your Local Pantry in their community is invited to email the YLP project office Laura Jones on laura@church-poverty.org.uk

The Lighthouse Project: www.lighthouseproject.org.uk

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