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Fareshare’s Fundraising and Communications Manager, Anna, spoke to Maureen Chaseley, project leader of The Marketplace, one of its newest Community Food Members. 

A: Hi Maureen, tell us a little bit about the project. Where is based and when did it start? 

M: The Marketplace is a community food larder run by Freedom Church in Sidley, a village on the outskirts of Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex. Sidley certainly is a deprived area. According to government statistics, Sidley is amongst the lowest 5% deprived areas in the whole of the UK. A group of people from the church wanted to give back to the community, especially after the pandemic. The idea was conceived in May 2021 and it took only a couple of months to organise and get the funds, finally taking off in September 2021.

A: Impressive how quickly you responded, well done! It’s shocking how hard COVID has hit Sussex with more households being plunged into poverty. So how many people do you support? 

M: We have on average 35 clients a week coming each representing a family with 85 signed up as members of The Marketplace. Some come every week, some just once a month. It’s as they need, others come just because they hate food waste. We support working poor and people claiming benefits as well as people with disabilities or long-term sickness. 

A: How does The Marketplace work? 

M: We are open Tuesdays from 10 am to 12 noon. We have 10 volunteers working shifts, welcoming people and helping them collect the fresh food we have along with 10 items from the store cupboard. We ask for £2.00 per visit. This gives people the dignity that they have paid for their shopping but also helps pay for replenishment of the stock cupboard each week. 

A: It’s a question of empowerment and independence being able to pay for your own food isn’t it? What’s a typical day like?  

M: Because of Covid people are assigned a slot where two to three come in and get their shopping from two big cupboards and tables. We try to provide all the sufficient food and nutrients – including eggs and cheese, veggies and fruits as well as bread. People often get through quickly but, at the end we offer free coffee so they can stop and catch up. I love hearing their laughter down the corridor!

A: What a lovely picture! So it’s more than just a marketplace? 

M: Yes. We give people a membership card which entitles them to a free cup of coffee/tea and a piece of cake for free and then any subsequent refills we ask for a 20p donation. It all adds to the dignity of being able to be in a cafe and order a coffee. For some a luxury beyond their means. 

Some people cannot afford to get a coffee with their friends so some only come to get a coffee for 20p and have some quality time. One client told me that we gave them back their social time. There’s a play area too and you can see two-year old kids socialising for their first time!”

A: Lockdown has definitely reinforced the importance of sharing and connecting with friends. So what difference has FareShare made?    

M: Before Fareshare, we relied on donations from the local Tesco but often it was not enough and always the same items. Since FareShare Sussex we can guarantee a variety of food options. Some of our middle-aged male clients don’t know how to cook so they are happy with the simplest ingredients – tins of tuna, pesto, custards, and beans or ready meals. But there are other users who are passionate about the variety of food. If there’s an unusual item, we try to use it in our recipe cards and inspire people to cook simple and quick meals. FareShare Sussex has made it easier for us to source food and it makes a real difference in budgeting.

A: And what does 2022 look like? 

M: We need to find a bigger place. We would like to host some cookery classes for adults and involve older local school children. It would also be lovely to make birthday boxes so our clients don’t miss out on their or a relative’s special day.”

A: Sounds you have some brilliant ideas.  Thanks for your time Maureen – hearing your portraits of simple but powerful moments of conviviality reminds me why we do what we do here at FareShare Sussex.

Make sure we can keep redistributing surplus food to our Community Groups like The Marketplace so they can keep feeding vulnerable people and reduce waste