Derbyshire County Council has agreed to give £300,000 to Rural Action Derbyshire to help set up 12 community shops and pantries in some of Derbyshire’s most deprived areas.

The shops and pantries will sell nutritious food and groceries and be part of a countywide ‘affordable food network’ which is expected to be self-sustaining within 2 years.

Pilot areas for the new scheme have already been identified in Shirebrook, Bolsover, and Holmewood, North East Derbyshire, although the ambition is to have one in every district and borough. Two of the pilots have already launched this March - Storehouse @ Brook Centre in Shirebrook, and the Eckington Community Pantry.

Cabinet Member for Health and Communities, Councillor Carol Hart, said the new initiative would “provide a stepping stone out of crisis” for people in food poverty by creating a longer term and more sustainable alternative to food banks. 

Councillor Hart said:

“Many people have had to turn to food banks to help them get through some very difficult times, even more so since the coronavirus pandemic hit.

By supporting the creation of an affordable food network in communities we’ll be able to help people struggling with low incomes and debt to access affordable, nutritious food and offer an alternative to food banks.”

The Community Pantry Scheme has identified three models of delivery:

  • Pop-up shops
  • Locations within existing community venues
  • Mobile delivery.

Although how the scheme is run will vary, depending on location, the principles of the scheme will be the same.

Each community shop or pantry will aim to attract 100 members, each paying a small yearly membership fee. Members would also pay a small contribution toward the cost of the food they choose during their weekly visit to the shop.

Starting small, the initiative is expected to grow to 12 outlets within 2 years.

Run by Rural Action Derbyshire through the Feeding Derbyshire project, its aims are to:

  • Support and strengthen the self-esteem of members
  • Increase self-reliance and resilience
  • Reduce reliance on food banks.

Welcoming the funding, Beverley Parker, CEO of Rural Action Derbyshire, said:

“We are thrilled to have the continued support of the county council. Even before the pandemic some families and individuals on low incomes struggled to afford to put food on the table, not just occasionally but regularly. By developing community pantries and shops we can make affordable food available to those who need it most."

Councillor Hart added: “The work of Feeding Derbyshire is helping support many of the county’s most vulnerable people but we need longer-term solutions to food insecurity. Funding the creation of community shops and pantries is very much a step in the right direction.”

 The Feeding Derbyshire Vision

  • To build a network of Community Shops and Pantries across the county of Derbyshire that give people access to good quality, affordable and nutritious food locally.
  • To use this network to provide additional support to individuals and families with respect to their financial/economic challenges in order to strengthen personal resilience.
  • To set up community shops and pantries that are significantly self-financing and sustainable within 2 years, a not-for-profit/social enterprise.

The Rationale - Why do we need Community Shops and Pantries?

  • The need and demand for emergency food has increased significantly during the Covid-19 crisis (over 40%), with community food projects reporting an increase in people making repeat visits and needing regular support
  • Covid-19 has exacerbated the situation of people that were already vulnerable, experiencing food insecurity or poverty, including homeless people
  • Food projects are seeing an increase in people coming forward who were ‘just managing’ before the pandemic
  • People needing support with food are not necessarily familiar with the benefit system and often present ‘in crisis’
  • Early intervention with financial advice and support can help to prevent longer-term issues and hardship