A guest Blog by Gethin Rhys from Churches Together in Wales

With concerns about food and fuel poverty on the rise, Gethin Rhys visited Hope Pantry, Merthyr Tydfil, part of the Your Local Pantry scheme sponsored by Church Action on Poverty, a body in association with Churches together in Britain and Ireland.

An unobtrusive side door into the imposing Hope Church in the centre of Merthyr leads into the local grocers’ shop. But it is no ordinary grocer. Hope Pantry offers members, for £3.50 per week, a shop worth 3 hearts or 8 diamonds (each heart or diamond often buying multiple items). Members can swap goods worth 1 heart for 2 diamonds.

The Pantry’s basic stock comes from Fareshare at £3.50 per week, but this is supplemented by fresh fruit, vegetables and bread which are free of charge to members, having been saved from landfill. There is also some food at or past its ‘best before’ date, but still edible, which is free of charge. 0.5 tonnes of food is supplied each week, and all of it is sold. The Pantry therefore makes a big contribution to tackling food waste and its environmental cost as well as tackling poverty. The Pantry also offers a selection of toiletries and cleaning materials, funded by grants and donations.

The Pantry is stocked and open on both Tuesday mornings and Friday afternoons. Fridays are busiest – with a queue down the street well before opening time when I visited. An orderly queuing system, with numbered tickets, allows volunteers to offer tea and coffee to those waiting, to help those who need assistance with shopping, and to operate the till. Many of the customers meet here regularly for a coffee and a chat as well.

Membership is open to all in the Merthyr Tydfil borough, with no need for referrals or means testing. Gellideg has its own independent community pantry. Both pantries along with others are members Merthyr Tydfil Food Prosperity Network, which aims to eliminate food insecurity in Merthyr Tydfil.

Heidi Jacobson, the welcoming and energetic Pantry Coordinator, paid tribute to the support provided by the Your Local Pantry organisation. By setting up the systems for membership, payment, stock control and so on, they make this a feasible project for a local church or community group. Pantry Network Development Coordinator James Henderson would love to hear from other churches interested in supporting their community in this way. He can be contacted via james@yourlocalpantry.co.uk or on mobile: 07897 551 987

The 2021 Social Impact Report – which contains many quotes from volunteers and customers of the pantries in Wales – shows the value of the project. With the Wales Governance Centre’s analysis of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Spring Statement showing that the average household in Wales will be £315 per year worse off as a result of the UK Government’s tax and benefit changes, that impact can only increase.

EICH PANTRI LLEOL – URDDAS, DEWIS, GOBAITH
Gyda phryderon am dlodi bwyd a thanwydd ar gynnydd, ymwelodd Gethin Rhys â Hope Pantry, Merthyr Tudful, rhan o gynllun Eich Pantri Lleol a noddir gan Church Action on Poverty, mudiad cysylltiol ag Eglwysi ynghyd ym Mhrydain ac Iwerddon.
Mae drws di-sylw ar ymyl capel trawiadol Hope yng nghanol Merthyr yn arwain at y siop groser leol. Ond nid yw'n siop gyffredin. Mae Hope Pantry yn cynnig i aelodau, am £3.50 yr wythnos, siopa gwerth 3 calon neu 8 diemwnt (calon neu ddiemwnt yn aml yn prynu eitemau lluosog). Gall aelodau gyfnewid nwyddau gwerth 1 galon am 2 ddiemwnt.
Daw stoc craidd y Pantri gan Fareshare am £3.50 yr wythnos, ond yn ychwanegol at hyn gall aelodau godi ffrwythau, llysiau a bara ffres yn rhad ac am ddim, bwyd a fyddai fel arall wedi ei ddanfon i’r domen wastraff. Mae yna hefyd rywfaint o fwyd ar neu ar ôl ei ddyddiad, ond o hyd yn fwytadwy, sy’n rhad ac am ddim. Cyflenwir 0.5 tunnell o fwyd bob wythnos, a gwerthir y cyfan ohono. Mae’r Pantri felly’n gwneud cyfraniad mawr at fynd i’r afael â gwastraff bwyd a’i gost amgylcheddol yn ogystal â threchu tlodi. Mae'r Pantri hefyd yn cynnig detholiad o bethau ymolchi a deunyddiau glanhau, wedi'u hariannu gan grantiau a rhoddion.
Mae'r Pantri yn llawn bwyd ac ar agor ar foreau Mawrth a phrynhawn Gwener. Dydd Gwener sydd brysuraf – pan ymwelais i roedd ciw i lawr y stryd ymhell cyn yr amser agor. Mae system giwio drefnus, gyda thocynnau wedi'u rhifo, yn galluogi gwirfoddolwyr i gynnig te a choffi i'r rhai sy'n aros, i helpu'r rhai sydd angen cymorth gyda’u siopa, ac i weithredu'r til. Mae llawer o'r cwsmeriaid yn cyfarfod yma'n rheolaidd am goffi a sgwrs hefyd.
Gall unrhyw un ym mwrdeistref Merthyr Tudful ymuno, heb fod angen argymhelliad na phrawf modd. Mae gan Gellideg ei phantri cymunedol annibynnol ei hun. Mae'r ddau, ynghyd â mudiadau eraill, yn rhan o Rwydwaith Ffyniant Bwyd Merthyr Tudful, sy'n anelu at ddileu tlodi bwyd yn lleol.
Bu Heidi Jacobson, Cydlynydd croesawgar ac egnïol y Pantri, yn canu clodydd i'r gefnogaeth gan fudiad Your Local Pantry. Trwy sefydlu'r systemau aelodaeth, talu, rheoli stoc ac ati, maent yn gwneud y fentr yn bosibl i eglwys neu grŵp cymunedol lleol. Byddai James Henderson, Cydlynydd Datblygu Rhwydwaith y Pantri, wrth ei fodd yn clywed gan eglwysi eraill sydd am gefnogi eu cymuned yn y modd hwn. Gellir cysylltu ag ef drwy james@yourlocalpantry.co.uk neu ar ffôn symudol: 07897 551 987
Mae Adroddiad Effaith Gymdeithasol 2021 – sy’n cynnwys llawer o ddyfyniadau gan wirfoddolwyr a chwsmeriaid y pantris yng Nghymru – yn dangos gwerth y cyfan. Gyda dadansoddiad Canolfan Llywodraethiant Cymru o Ddatganiad Gwanwyn Canghellor y Trysorlys yn dangos y bydd aelwydydd cyfartalog yng Nghymru £315 y flwyddyn yn waeth eu byd o ganlyniad i newidiadau treth a budd-daliadau Llywodraeth y DU, dim ond cynyddu all yr effaith honno.