FareShare deliver their surplus food to a range of different projects and organisations, from food banks to nursery schools to community cafes in deprived neighbourhoods.
One model we have seen emerge in recent years are affordable food schemes based on a typical shop. Also referred to as ‘pantries’, ‘community shops’, ‘food clubs’, ‘social shops’, they are generally a membership based scheme where local residents receive a weekly food shop at a fraction of the normal retail price. Members not only pick up their food but are invested in the scheme’s success, contributing to it in other ways such as volunteering.
We caught up with Rachel from BrightStore who are now running two such schemes in the city of Brighton & Hove – one in Hollingdean and the other in Hove.
“BrightStore is not just about providing a bag of food, we are building a community through food.”
Ensuring that they are reaching people in need, location and building networks were key at the start of the project. In their Hollingdean site, Rachel explained how shops with fresh produce aren’t easily accessible in this area, and through her work with the local food bank, she knew there was a real need in the neighbourhood.
Through working with local schools, children’s centres and other support services, they were able to ensure people in food poverty were referred to the project. Through their solidarity scheme, BrightStore enables people who can’t afford the membership fee can access their weekly shop for free.
They also share FareShare’s passion for sustainability and the fight against food waste.
Due to the pandemic, as with many food schemes, BrightStore have had to adapt their services from allowing customers to browse and spend time in the community space, to providing ready packed shopping bags based on size and dietary requirements.
“The long-term plan is to create a community food hub with a range of food related services and experiences for people. We want to look at the whole food system, from growing and sharing allotment produce, to community cookery and swapping recipes.”
As well as getting food from FareShare Sussex, BrightStore also work with Brighton Food Factory, local Sussex farms and bakeries.
“Fareshare is the key, the linchpin that enables us to be affordable in the way that we are. No way we would be able to provide the same volume of food if it wasn’t for FareShare. We would either have to charge more or be scrabbling around seeing what we could find. It wouldn’t be the quality or selection – we love it.”
It seems clear that affordable food schemes such as this are here to stay, providing a much-needed level playing field for people of all backgrounds to come together to learn, share and shop in a space that values community and empowerment. There is certainly space for this model that provides a helping hand to those moving on from emergency food provision, people struggling to stretch their budget far enough or isolated vulnerable people who want to feel part of a community.
To find out more about BrightStore visit: www.brightstore.org. You can also find them on Facebook @BrightStoreBrighton and on Instagram @brightstorebtn.