Affordable food schemes across the city tackle food poverty and eliminate waste as community pantries give helping hand to those in need of support

FOOD pantries in Portsmouth say they are uniting communities, tackling food waste, and bringing ‘dignity’ to people in need.

Tuesday, 7th September 2021, 9:54 am

Sadly, staff at community larders have seen the need for affordable shopping projects increasing over the last year, with one pantry reporting a 150 per cent increase in use.

These schemes mean that hard-hit communities are being given a helping hand, as pantries can offer food for a fraction of supermarket prices.

A community pantry or larder is different from a food bank in that a small fee is charged and shoppers get more choice over their purchases.

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Lord mayor Frank Jonas with his wife Patricia with visitors and volunteers at North End Baptist Church. Picture: Habibur Rahman

One such project is the North End Pantry, based at North End Baptist Church on Powerscourt Road.

The pantry was officially opened as the Lord Mayor cut the ribbon in a special ceremony held on June 17 this year.

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Rev. Tracey Ansell, minister at North End Baptist Church, said: ‘We ran a food bank but it wasn’t really bringing dignity to people, we wanted to help people have more control and choose what they wanted.

Lord mayor Frank Jonas with his wife Patricia marking the opening of the North End Pantry with Rev. Tracey Ansell and Father Bob White. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘They like the fact that they’re paying, and the pantry model allows us to do that.

‘It helps with food waste, and it also takes away the stigma - it’s more a community thing where everybody comes together.

‘The community element is as important to us as the food.’

North End’s pantry project is not only driven by the desire to deal with food poverty, but also to help eliminate food waste by supermarkets.

Volunteers at the North End Pantry. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Tracey said: ‘By bringing these two things together, we have the pantry, and we are delighted that it is being received well.’

North End Pantry is for people living in the PO2 and PO3 postcode areas, supporting those living in North End and Copnor.

Tracey said: ‘We saw it was generally increasing before the pandemic, and then definitely as the pandemic hit, people were made redundant or furloughed.

‘We saw a 150 per cent increase in use. Some people we had come in had no food, we even had medical staff coming to us because they couldn’t find food in the shops.’

Stock in North End Pantry. Picture: Habibur Rahman

For a weekly membership of £4, North End Pantry members can choose a selection of food with a value of £15 - £20 each week.

Tracey added: ‘We have 320 members, a good 200 of them have food insecurities or food shortages.

‘All our fruit and veg is free, so people are eating healthier, whereas with the food bank it was all tinned stuff.

‘Toiletries are also free. It’s been a really lovely community feel.

‘We’ve got a men’s cooking club pantry called Copnor Chaps Cooking, where they can come along and access the pantry and learn how to cook.’

North End Pantry works with Fair Share and is connected with the Your Local Pantry project

Across the city, another community pop-up shop is working to take pressure off Portsmouth residents in need.

Landport Larder opened its doors in April, set up by local charity Enable Ability at Landport Community Centre.

Alan Jenkins, manager of Landport Community Centre, said: ‘The Landport Larder scheme was a follow on from the other food schemes we had run through the pandemic to help people who were most vulnerable through various lockdowns.

‘The idea evolved from a visit to the Cosham Pantry, and we were fortunate to have some additional funding from Abri Housing Association to get the initial process underway.’

The housing provider also provided funding for the project for the first six months.

Like North End Pantry, Landport Larder has seen a rise in local people needing the support of affordable food schemes.

Alan said: ‘I would say that the need for such schemes has unfortunately increased.

‘Whilst we may have started this to just run through Covid, we fully intend to keep the scheme going as long as possible.

‘There is unfortunately always going to be a need to help people who are vulnerable or whose personal situations mean a helping hand is required.

‘It’s also been a shock to discover how much food could go to waste if such schemes didn’t exist.

‘That said, I feel that supermarket chains now are fully aware of their responsibility to help the society they serve, and locally everyone has been brilliant.’

Membership of the larder is then £1 to join, and £3.50 each time a person shops.

Each shop provides up to 10 items, in addition to which the larder adds in free fresh fruit and vegetables and home cooking products to try to encourage healthy eating.

Alan said: ‘We differ from food banks in as much as we charge a minimal fee but allow shoppers to choose their items.

‘The other difference to a food bank is that anyone can join – it’s not means tested and there’s no referral system.

‘Anyone can join regardless of whether they’re claiming benefits or not.’

As a cooperative shop which brings affordable shopping to those who might otherwise use food banks, Landport Larder pays a discounted amount to Fare Share who then deliver food to the centre on a weekly basis.

Alan added: ‘We also belong to a Foodbank Network locally that is made up of various similar charities.

‘This network shares information and stock, and I have also forged good relationships with local supermarkets including Tesco, Morrison’s and Sainsburys who supplement the stock.’

Landport Larder has also provided volunteer opportunities for young people in Portsmouth, as well as those who are part of the centre’s Enable Ability and Inter Activ work streams.

Find out more about Landport Larder at landportcc.org.uk/landport-larder.

The Fratton Big Local project began work with the HIVE Portsmouth to find a venue for a community pantry in Fratton Road earlier this year.

This would be a membership organisation, mid way between a food bank and a shop, that helps people on limited incomes to shop and budget.

The project is currently running a consultation to find out what priorities local people have for the area in 2022, including enabling access to cheaper food via a community pantry.

Take part at tinyurl.com/59mxyebv.

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