This has been a busy and hugely pleasing week for everyone connected with the Your Local Pantry network.
We were in Aylesham in Kent on Tuesday to take part in a community lunch and fun day, to celebrate the opening of the 100th Pantry. The same day, we launched our new research report, So Much More. And, also this week, we launched a new Pantry video, with help and input from Pantries across the country.
It’s ten years since the first Pantry opened but there are now Pantries in every nation of the UK, from Edinburgh to Ebbw Vale, from Portadown to Portsmouth. To have reached 100 is a fantastic testament to every community partner, member, volunteer and supporter.
It’s been lovely this week to hear from some of the people involved at the beginning, like Anna Jones and Dave Nicholson, who are amazed at what those first seeds have grown into.
You can read their lovely comments in the 'Our Story' page.
The event at Aylesham was a really joyful occasion. The Coop put on lunch for 100 villagers and Pantry supporters, and it was wonderful to hear Pantry volunteers and members saying how Pantry membership had improved their lives. People who have lived in the village for years are making new friends through the Pantry, discovering new opportunities, and of course saving money. Angela, the Pantry manager, told us how the Pantry had brought the community more closely together, softening the blow of high living costs. - And we loved seeing their abundant community garden, which currently includes tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and even watermelons!
Our Pantry network development coordinator James Henderson spoke at the event and launched our new report. The researchers found Pantry members now save £21 on groceries each time they visit, and are also enjoying improved health, reduced isolation, more varied food access and strengthened community.
We called the report So Much More for three reasons:
1) Because Pantries are doing so much more than anyone could ever have imagined when the first one opened. Every single Pantry now offers something more than food. Individually and collectively, the 100 Pantries (and their 2000 volunteers) are working wonders.
2) Because Pantries remind us that communities can be - and do - so much more by coming together, cooperating and collaborating. None of us can achieve much on our own. By forging local partnerships and building relationships where we live, so much more is possible.
3) Because, notwithstanding that incredible work, there is still so much more the country as a whole needs to do. Many Pantries and members are at the sharp end of the cost of living emergency. We need the Government to do so much more to ensure incomes keep pace with living costs, and to prevent people being swept into poverty.
You can watch our new video below: