New Burgess Hill Pantry aims to tackle food poverty

A new community shop that aims to reduce food bills and tackle food poverty has opened in Burgess Hill.

Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 12:08 pm

Councillors and volunteers have set up the Burgess Hill Pantry in the Trading Spaces unit at the Martlets and there will be an official launch once Coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

The project is the latest in the Your Local Pantry network, which has expanded rapidly over the past year, as communities have looked for sustainable responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As we started to emerge from the Covid-19 emergency, we began to think about the economic consequences to the community,” said Robert Eggleston leader of Burgess Hill Town Council.

Burgess HIll Town Council leader Robert Eggleston said the council is tackling the long-term issue of food insecurity. Picture: Steve Robards, SR2105073.

He said some people would struggle as furlough ends and that jobs would be lost as the UK enters ‘the deepest recession in the nation’s history’.

“We then looked at the situation in the community, Covid-19 notwithstanding,” said Mr Eggleston, adding that only one in ten Burgess Hill pupils are eligible for free school meals.

He went on to say that Burgess Hill Town Council now aims to deal with the long-term issue of food insecurity, instead of simply responding to a crisis.

Pantries are membership-based food clubs where members can access food at a fraction of its supermarket price.

The weekly fee at Burgess Hill Pantry is £4 and members can choose ten items with a total value of more than £20.

Around 50 members have already signed up and Burgess Hill Pantry expects this to increase to around 100 members within six months.

“Pantries have been a real success story in the past few years,” said Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, which is supporting the roll-out of pantries across the UK.

He said they help people save money, reduce isolation, foster community and friendships, improve health and pre-empt poverty.

“Over the past year, we’ve gone from 14 Pantries to 44, with more than 8,000 households now accessing one in their neighbourhood,” he added.

Pantries aim to provide members with more choice than food banks and are controlled by the members.

They have various food sources, like supermarket surplus via the food recycling charity Fareshare, and they get produce by developing relationships with local food businesses as well.