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Here Food Wise operations manager Shani Orchard tells us about their most recent project – ShopWise the community shop set up in March this year. ShopeWise is the first eco food store opened by Food Wise – a Guildford-based charity devoted to delivering local food provision, training and education. ShopWise focuses on cutting food waste and helping the environment in Sheerwater, a residential neighbourhood in Woking, Surrey. 

But it does more than stocking and resharing food items that would otherwise go to waste – the community shop promotes healthy eating and supports its clients in addition to meals. In fact, in a few months, it’s built a wonderful trusted community of people who support each other.

“ShopWise opens every Wednesday from 12.30 and 2 pm after receiving our FareShare Sussex delivery. Each week, we expect 18-20 families to come through our doors. I would say, 60% of them are Asian, reflecting the local community. The local Shah Jahan Mosque nearby is the first purpose-built mosque in the United Kingdom. Many of the families moved into council houses built after the war to tackle the overflow of people in London. Despite the recent regeneration the neighbourhood is undergoing, there is still a need and pockets of deprivation.

We have an amazing network of support and connections. I am part of the resident association so we make sure we respond to the need of the community. We collaborate with local agencies and we offer our clients a signposting system where link workers direct them, for example, to housing or financial support. We also work together with other organisations and charities, such as The Maybury and Sheerwater Community Trust (MASCOT) – they assist people who need career support to look for work, edit CVs, employment advise and job applications.

We could not have opened without FareShare Sussex. We rely 100% on FareShare Sussex surplus food deliveries. Nothing goes to waste – if there’s any leftover, we load it on a van and take it to other community groups and fridges in the Woking area and nearby.

We run on a weekly membership. People pay £3 and they choose 10 items from the shelves including a bag of veggies. Our aim is to encourage healthy eating. On Tuesdays, I take the FareShare Sussex list of orders and, for example, if I see cauliflower, I get ready a useful recipe to complement it. We invite people to get curious and cook a nutritious easy recipe on a budget. It’s wonderful when they come back the following week giving us their positive feedback. So we now share recipes that have their stamp of approval.

We don’t run on a referral or help yourself system. This is because we do not want to exclude anyone. Universal credit would exclude many who are on the breadline but are still struggling. For many being able to pay £3 means feeling valued and building honesty and trust. I remember once a mother of two both under two years old on maternity leave who came to us. She had only £10 left to spend on food with two weeks to go until the end of the month. The £3 membership meant her dignity was maintained and we signposted her to the local foodbank – so she received a food box and was able to make it through till the end of the month.”