Community groups, churches, charities and family centres are being supported by Bath & North East Somerset Council to help families on low incomes access high quality affordable food.
Since the start of lockdown, many people across the district have lost their jobs or seen their hours reduced, and there’s been a big increase in individuals and families who are struggling to afford their weekly shop. In response, a network of FOOD Clubs and Pantries has opened in key locations across the district to supply low cost food to those in need.
The projects are supplied with fresh, chilled and store cupboard food from a variety of sources including Fareshare Southwest, a charity which works to redistribute surplus in-date food from retail suppliers to individuals and families on low incomes, and CropDrop, a partnership project between Transition Bath and members of the Sustainable Food Partnership to share abundant fresh, seasonal produce grown in local allotments to community organisations.
For a nominal weekly fee, residents can a become FOOD Club or Pantry member and carry out a small shop for a fraction of the price they’d pay in a supermarket.
Sally is a member of the FOOD Club at the Radstock Brightstart Children’s Centre. Sally said, “I love the FOOD Club, there is so much choice. I’m able to cook different meals every week and all for a bargain price too. It’s amazing value for money. Thank you!”
Megan Mehnert, who works with Family Action to manage the FOOD Club at the Children’s Centre, explained, “The FOOD Clubs are making a huge difference to people’s lives at what is a really challenging time. The quality and variety of produce we are able to offer is fantastic. We’ve recently put together recipe kits to encourage families to cook together, share skills, learn about healthy eating and nutrition, and try new foods, and these have gone down really well with club members.”
The FOOD Club is one of three across Bath and North East Somerset funded by Family Action and located in Brightstart Children’s Centres. Family Action originally developed the FOOD Club model in Manchester and now operates FOOD clubs in many parts of the country including the South West.
Elsewhere in B&NES, the council has partnered with the Feeding Britain National Network and the St John Foundation in Bath to help fund the set up costs of four local Pantries. Over the coming months it aims to help train staff at each location to promote healthy eating and signpost members to relevant support services. The longer-term vision is to introduce on-site wrap around support and advice, including on-site contact with key agencies such as Citizens Advice and health visitors.
Councillor Rob Appleyard, cabinet member for Adult Services and Public Health, said, “I’m delighted we’ve been able to support the fantastic organisations that have come forward to set up the FOOD Clubs and Pantries. Many have vast experience in providing food support to our local communities and are adapting to the new concept of providing a nationwide network of to support those facing food poverty.
“Bath and North East Somerset may appear to be an affluent area, but many people have recently seen their income decrease and are struggling to provide their families with healthy food. Although traditional foodbanks have proved a lifeline for hundreds of families and continue to play a vital role in our communities, some people shy away from using them not wanting to rely on charity handouts. FOOD Clubs and Pantries though are different; members are customers and part of a project, a project which not only provides affordable food but also engages the community promoting healthy eating.
“No one should have to live in food poverty and the FOOD Clubs and Pantries are a fantastic example of what can be achieved through partnership working.”
Dr Lyn Barham, Trustee and Food Group Convenor for Transition Bath who help co-ordinate the Crop Drop project, added, “I’ve been amazed by the rapid establishment of a network of growers, drivers, food projects and volunteer co-ordinators, all focused on getting fresh local food to local people all across B&NES.
“Vegetable growers tend their crops lovingly, often resulting in summer and autumn surpluses, from kale to runner beans, parsnips to turnips. 2020 has created need in the community as well as crop surpluses. It’s been wonderful to witness equal pleasure from the gardeners sharing their abundance and the community food projects receiving fresh fruit and vegetables.”
Details of FOOD Clubs and Pantries across Bath and North East Somerset are available by visiting: http://banesfoodfinder.org.uk/listing/food-clubs-pantries