Char­ity project so pop­u­lar that it is mov­ing from two days to three

The Sentinel - - NEWS - Matt Jack­son matthew.jack­[email protected]­

A SO­CIAL su­per­mar­ket of­fer­ing a week’s shop­ping for £3 has be­come so pop­u­lar it needs to open three days a week.

The Com­mu­nity Pantry, in Crewe, pro­vides food and house­hold es­sen­tials for peo­ple strug­gling fi­nan­cially.

Its 80 mem­bers pay a £3-a-week sub­scrip­tion – to help cover over­heads – and are en­ti­tled to a bas­ket of shop­ping worth be­tween £15 and £25.

Cur­rently the su­per­mar­ket opens on Mon­days and Satur­days, but in­creased de­mand means it will open on a Fri­day from late Jan­uary.

Head of op­er­a­tions, Natasha Ma­roni, said: “We have mem­bers who are in debt or are on low in­comes and they will come to us for 13 weeks, when we will re­view how they are do­ing and if they are do­ing bet­ter.

“We have one lady who, when she came to us, was eat­ing dog bis­cuits and feed­ing her chil­dren on in­stant mash potato.

“Ev­ery­thing in the store is la­belled and peo­ple get to pick what they want. They get one high value item a week. Stock changes ev­ery week and we can’t guar­an­tee what will be in – we get a lot of do­na­tions from Marks and Spencer and Mor­risons in Nantwich.

“The Christ­mas pe­riod was very busy and we have had loads of mes­sages be­cause we have just re-opened mem­ber­ship after clos­ing it.”

Natasha says the vol­un­teers are now get­ting to know the mem­bers, as some of them come to their first re­view pe­riod.

She added: “Some of them are now ap­proach­ing the 13 weeks and will be hav­ing a re­view to see if their sit­u­a­tion has im­proved. If they have got bet­ter and man­aged to pay some of their debts, they can stay an­other 13 weeks.”

The Com­mu­nity Pantry, in Coro­na­tion Cres­cent, cur­rently caters to 38 peo­ple ev­ery Mon­day and 42 ev­ery Satur­day. If a mem­ber misses a week, they still have to pay their £3 to cover costs.

Mem­bers, most of whom are re­ferred by Cit­i­zens Ad­vice or Cheshire East Coun­cil, are en­ti­tled to 10 items a week.

Op­er­ated by char­ity Chance Chang­ing Lives, it is the only so­cial su­per­mar­ket in Cheshire East.

And its mem­bers, who all sign con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ments when join­ing the pro­gramme, say they would be stuck with­out it.

One cus­tomer said: “It is ab­so­lutely bril­liant. It is a vi­tal ser­vice and if the vol­un­teers have the time they will talk to you. It’s al­ways busy and is the best thing I ever signed up to be­cause you pay a bit back and they help us out.”

An­other added: “The Com­mu­nity Pantry helps me out and my big prob­lem has been Uni­ver­sal Credit. That messes up a lot and there have been times when it has missed my pay­ment.”

Any in­di­vid­u­als or shops wish­ing to do­nate goods should call 01270 211000 or email chance­[email protected] Pic­ture: Pete Stonier

SHOP­PING: Or­gan­iser Natasha Ma­roni with some of the goods on of­fer in the su­per­mar­ket.

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