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Making Ends Meet

Making Ends Meet

Thursday August 3 2023

 

 

Jackie Macadam learns about the work of Community Pantries.

An initiative to bring nutritious healthy food to a wider community is taking off in Scotland.

Community Pantries are community-based initiatives aimed at addressing food insecurity and providing essential items to those in need. Typically run by volunteers, these pantries collect and distribute food and other necessities to individuals and families facing financial difficulties. The primary goal is to ensure that no one in the community goes hungry and that basic needs are met.

These pantries act as a grassroots response to fill these gaps and offer assistance to vulnerable populations who might not qualify for government aid but still struggle to make ends meet.

There are six of them operating in Edinburgh and another due to open soon in West Lothian.

One is based in South Leith Parish Church and is run by Ann Monaghan.

“The Leith Churches were already running as the Edinburgh NE Foodbank, it was recognised that a lot of people coming to the Foodbank were on low income and struggling to make ends meet and becoming dependant on the foodbank,” she said. “We saw an opportunity to support these people further by opening up a Pantry so clients would be able to maximise their income.”

“The minister, the Rev Iain May suggested that we could use the space within the Church building to run the pantry, and this was agreed unanimously by the Kirk Session.

“We stock fresh, chilled, frozen and ambient foods using Fareshare and supermarket donations. We also use the £4.50 weekly membership to buy foods from Farmfoods and other supermarkets.  We also accept food donations from local businesses.  We supply household products and free sanitary products and pet foods for our members.

“We use a system of ‘hearts’ and ‘diamonds’ to ‘price our food,” she explains.

 “A diamond is worth up to £1.50 and a heart is £1.50 to £4 in value.  We price all our food according to retail prices. Each week a member is allowed to get three hearts and seven diamonds as well as free fruit and vegetables on offer.”

“It helps to categorise all foods within this system, rather than individually pricing as the Pantry cannot stock all items found in a supermarket. It therefore allows members to be able to buy products or brands that they otherwise couldn't afford.

 “And for members where English is not their first language, simply using a system of symbols helps them to select items that they might not otherwise try. I think all the Pantries in Edinburgh are £4.50 a week’s shop but this can differ from city to city.

The Pantry opens on a Thursday morning until just after 1pm and is used by 40 members  with a waiting list of 30.

“We get, on average, around 28 to 29 visits a week,” says Ann.

“We’ve had a really positive response,” she says. “A recent evaluation indicated that 100% of members said they would recommend the Pantry to others.”

The Community Pantry initiative started in Stockport in 2013 and the organisation has recently celebrated the opening of their 100th pantry in Kent recently.

Community Pantries work on a donation and redistribution model. Local residents, businesses, and organisations contribute food, personal care items, and other essentials to the pantry. Recipients can then visit the pantry to receive the items they need. The whole system promotes a sense of community support and solidarity, as well as giving people a choice in what they’d like to buy.

In some cases, Community Pantries might have criteria for eligibility to ensure that the assistance reaches those who need it most. The initiatives are often managed through community centres, religious institutions, or local non-profit organisations.

 

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