Community Shop fights food poverty

Sarah Dunwell, pictured outside the Community Hub, Goldthorpe. Picture: Marie Caley S5025MC
Sarah Dunwell, pictured outside the Community Hub, Goldthorpe. Picture: Marie Caley S5025MC

The first needy shoppers stepped over the threshold of the UK’s first social supermarket offering surplus food at a third of the price.

The Community Shop officially opened in Goldthorpe on Monday, giving a much needed lifeline to hard up families and putting the area under the national media microscope.

The shop on Barnsley Road is open to just 500 local people who have to meet strict criteria to access it.

Items at the Community Shop, Goldthorpe, are a third of normal prices, with stock supplied from major chains such as Asda, Marks and Spencer and Morrisons which would otherwise be thrown away. Organiser Sarah Dunwell said: “We are aiming to fill a gap between food banks and mainstream retail. Lots of families are not in such an emergency situation, but are on the cusp of food poverty.

“It is for anyone who is claiming any of a list of benefits. It’s not just about the long-term unemployed but hard-working families who are struggling.

“It’s more than about just cheap food. We offer a full package of support with a cafe, a cookery school and support for people who need advice on payday lending, alcohol and domestic violence among other things. Community shops are a social enterprise about taking surplus food from the supply chain and using it for social good. All our food is still in date and wholesome.

“It is perfectly fit for purpose. The reasons the supermarkets don’t need it are often about the packaging - perhaps the actual weight may be different to the label.

“We’ll have staples such as pasta and rice, but also more expensive goods such as French cheeses, desserts and household products.

“This is not cheap food for the poor, rather it will bring a range of foods. There is a great deal of this in the supply chain.”

All 500 customers will have to be on a specified list of benefits and will initially be given membership for six months. The not-for profit shop is the idea of South Yorkshire food retailer John Marren, boss of the Company Shop, a members only discount food outlet based in Tankersley. Sarah said the aim was to launch 20 more stores next year, including six in London.