We all hear stories in the news about food going to waste from supermarkets and a lot of us question why it can’t be used to help people who need it.
A few weeks ago, I chaired a meeting in Athersley with local businesses who want to support the new Community Shop opening on 24 October. Having visited the branch of Community Shop already open in Goldthorpe and seen for myself the tremendous work it does, I was determined to ensure that this new branch in Athersley thrived with the support of local food manufacturers.
Community Shop is an initiative run by Company Shop – the largest redistributor of surplus food in the country. By working with businesses to make proper use of their surplus stock, these shops provide wholesome food to those struggling to afford supermarket prices.
But Community Shop does more than just supply high quality food at affordable prices. All of its members are also part of the Success Plan – a personal development plan which helps people deal with any issues which might be holding them back.
From debt advice and healthy eating programmes to support with job applications and interviews, Community Shop’s work is about helping people improve their lives permanently.
It was fantastic to see the wide range of support this project has. The meeting was attended by local councillors Jenny Platts, Dave Leech, and Sarah Tattersall, representatives from Berneslai Homes and the Coalfield Regeneration Trust, Barnsley Premier Leisure, and food manufacturers from across South Yorkshire.
During the meeting, we heard from two women who live near the Goldthorpe Shop. Although they came to Community Shop for different reasons, both gained far more from the experience than they expected.
One of the women explained how she had been facing hardship and suffered a big knock to her confidence due to personal problems. She was nervous about going into the Shop. Now she is a Peer Mentor and volunteers at Community Shop, helping other people feel comfortable when they first come in looking for support.
Another told us how she took on the task of running the weekly “weigh-in” service for those members on the healthy lifestyle programme after a change in contract meant it would have moved to only a monthly service.
It is incredibly rewarding to see people make a positive change to their lives and then help others do the same.
The long-term success of Community Shop depends on strong relationships with food manufacturers. It was fantastic that all the business owners who attended pledged their support for the new shop in Athersley. With the food industry’s support, we can ensure that Community Shop thrives in our community, help families stretch their household budgets, and improve people’s lives.
The Athersley Community Shop, which is delivered in partnership with the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, opens on Monday. Anyone who lives in the area and receives some kind of income-based benefit is eligible to become a member.
I want to thank all those who have helped make this project happen and I would encourage anyone in Athersley who is finding things tough to visit – it could make a big difference to your life.
This article was first published in the Barnsley Chronicle.