Dozens of English churches are helping people save £21 a week and enjoy significantly improved health, through community Pantry membership.
The Your Local Pantry network’s So Much More! report was published on 18 July, the same day as their hundredth Pantry opened, in Kent.
Churches host or support 47 of the 100 Pantries, and since Pantries began the whole network has reached 90,000 people.
The report outlines evidence of wide-ranging benefits:
- Finances: 97% of members say membership has improved their household finances, with 50% saying it had made things a lot better
- Food waste: 98% say helping reduce food waste is important to them
- Health: 83% say membership has been good for their mental health and 68% say it has been good for their physical health
- Community: 74% feel more connected to their community and 66% have made new friends
- Food access and variety: 69% of members are eating more fresh fruit and vegetables and 67% are trying new foods
Pantries are laid out like small shops, serving residents of a specific neighbourhood. Members pay a few pounds each week, and can choose ten items worth many times more.
James Henderson, Your Local Pantry network development coordinator, said: “Pantries remind us that communities can do and be so much more when they come together.
“Churches are often ideal hosts, as they have physical space, local links, a well-known location, potential volunteers, and a heartfelt desire to see positive change.”
One church to embrace the approach is North End Baptist Church in Portsmouth, which closed its food bank and opened a Pantry instead. Inspired by its success, a Church of England community church in nearby Southsea opened a Pantry too, as did two other local organisations, including a community group supported by a local Elim church.
Jo Green, a member and joint Pantry manager at North End, said: “We wanted to be there for this community in the PO2 and then PO3 postcode areas. We are able to signpost now to activities happening through the church, or just groups that use the church building.
“In churches, if someone isn’t there, you’ll get in touch and say you missed them and ask how they are. Pantries are the same, and the church likes that element. We had one man and when he first came he was shy but now he comes most weeks and has joined a mental health group that meets in the church and is going out more. We have so many people whose lives have changed because we have relationships with people as individuals.”