The Community Shop – fighting food waste and food poverty
The UK’s first full-scale social supermarket has opened in West Norwood – selling low-cost, high-quality surplus food to hundreds of people on income support while helping them back into work.
Community Shop works on a membership basis. Up to 750 local members can shop for surplus food at 70 per cent cheaper than usual prices from leading supermarkets, other major retailers and top brands.
How does it work?
The services are funded from revenue raised by the sale of the food – showing how surplus food can achieve powerful positive social impact.
Community Shop membership helps with pressure on the family budget through access to cheaper food. In addition, members also enrol on ‘The Success Plan’ – a learning programme which aims to raise their self-confidence and job prospects.
What is surplus food?
It is estimated that around 3.5 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK, before it even reaches people’s shopping basket, with about 10 per cent of that figure good enough to be eaten – because it is simply in damaged packaging or has been mislabelled.
In other cases, food has simply been over-ordered. But instead of being used to feed people, some of this surplus is sent to landfill, fed to animals, or turned into energy through anaerobic digestion. Community Shop demonstrates why this need not be the case.
From Yorkshire to Lambeth
The London store marks the start of the national roll-out programme after the success of a pilot store (for 500 members) which opened in Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire, in December last year – where one in five of those members who have completed training (which started four months after opening) have already found work.
The Lambeth store is the first in Community Shop’s plans to open 20 more stores across the country, with a number of locations already in the pipeline. Together they will directly support around 20,000 people nationwide (and have a knock-on benefit to around 50,000 family members) and step up to deal with two of the biggest problems we face: food waste and food poverty.
John Marren, Chairman of Company Shop Group, said: “Community Shop is tackling the problem of surplus food, whilst giving it real social purpose.
“The support we have had from retailers and brands, from Lambeth Council, Rosie Boycott, the London Food Board, the GLA and of course from the Mayor of London, has been fantastic and demonstrates the real need and support for a project like this in London and beyond.”
Good news for West Norwood
Leader of Lambeth Council, Councillor Lib Peck, highlights how important The Community Shop will be for West Norwood:
“It’s a fantastic initiative which makes a very real difference to people’s lives. We’re only too aware how difficult it has become for hundreds of families living on the breadline with rising costs over the last few years and the Community Shop will prove to be a lifeline for many.
“The Community Shop does a great job of matching up perfectly good surplus food with those who need it. But it’s not only about food – it’s about making communities that bit fairer and supporting those people who need a little bit of extra help. That’s why we’re happy to facilitate the Community Shop in Lambeth.”
The West Norwood store is located on Vale Street, in an unused council building, found and provided by the council at a heavily discounted rent.
It will be open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, for members only. It will sell a range of products from its suppliers, just as one would find in any other supermarket, except for alcohol and tobacco.
You can hear Cllr Peck interviewed on BBC London breakfast here (at about 12 mins 50 secs into the programme)
Members of the Lambeth Community Shop need to meet three important criteria, to make sure support reaches the right people.
- live in a specific area, chosen in line with the Government indices of deprivation – West Norwood Station and Gipsy Hill Station both fall within the area;
- live in a household that receives some form of Government income support; and most importantly
- are motivated to make positive change in their lives, and want to sign up to the development programme.
Membership will be offered for six months, reviewed towards the end of this period. Members update staff on their status on a regular basis.
You can find out more about membership and The Success Plan at The Community Shop website.
A Food Flagship borough
The Community Shop is part of Lambeth’s Food Flagship Programme and the council’s work with the Greater London Authority. As part of this, Lambeth Council is:
- putting together a dedicated team to improve the whole food system in Lambeth
- working closely with schools to implement the school food plan and share best practice
- working with communities to improve access to healthy food and increase food related activities.
Let us know what you think about the Community Shop. Do you have experiences of food waste? Or tips for making food budgets go further?