I recently visited the Community Shop in Athersley to meet John Marren and his team. Following the success of the original Community Shop in Goldthorpe, the Athersley shop opened its doors just over two years ago and has had an incredible impact in that relatively short time.
Essentially, the aim of the initiative is to help prevent food poverty, whilst reducing food waste.
Food poverty is on the rise. The UK is a wealthy country. Yet millions of people across our nation are facing a daily struggle to feed themselves and/or their children.
Evidence shows that 8.4 million people in the UK struggle to eat, whilst 250,000 tonnes of food is wasted every year. These statistics are scandalous, and the Community Shop initiative is playing its own valuable part in going some way to address this. Surplus stock is a common occurrence within the food manufacturing and retail process and Community Shop provides an alternative for the food industry to landfill.
The shops are a fantastic resource, not only providing low-cost food to the community, but also being a means of accessing support and advice. In Athersley, there is a supermarket-style shop, alongside a community kitchen on site, selling delicious, surplus food at a discount.
During my time there, alongside councillors Sarah Tattersall and Jenny Platts, we witnessed a place bustling with activity, with a real sense of community. This is so valuable and much-needed, as cuts to local services have resulted in the loss of facilities that may have provided such support networks in the past. And at a national level, welfare policy does often not provide an adequate safety net for those experiencing food poverty – including people in and out of work.
Community Shop store membership is open to people who live locally who are on a very low income. Groceries are made available at up to 70% off the usual price. As well as getting access to heavily discounted food to help to feed their families for less, membership also enables individuals to enrol in a programme to help people change their lives in the longer-term.
The results of the programmes have been transformational. Members who hadn’t got the confidence to leave the house before being involved with Community Shop are engaging in planned activities; families are being supported to stretch their family budgets and; people are being helped to access education and employment.
Every day throughout the summer at the Athersley shop there will be a mixture of activities for every age group, lots of nutritious food available in the kitchen and promotions in the shop to help family’s money go further – there are even free breakfasts for the under 16’s, helping to ensure that no child starts the day hungry.
If you think you may be eligible for Community Shop membership, please either pop into the shop on Lindhurst Road in Athersley or call 01226 733458. Any food producers who would be interested in getting involved with this hugely worthwhile project, please do also get in touch using [email protected] or call their surplus hotline on 0800 211 84 84
This article was originally published in the Barnsley Chronicle on 12 July 2019.