A photo of two volunteers in Your Local Pantry aprons, beside a photo of two members shoppingThe Your Local Pantry network has led to new partnerships and connections all over the UK. This blog tells of an exciting organisation doing brilliant work in Edinburgh.

Community One Stop Shop (COSS) is a project based in Broomhouse, an area of high deprivation in South West Edinburgh. 

It was established over 20 years ago as an advice shop, helping people in the area make sure they were claiming the correct benefits.

Since then, in response to the enormous needs of the community, it has steadily grown. The project now runs 13 services including a foodbank, a baby bank, a soup kitchen and an employability service, as well as acting as a distributer of fuel vouchers for the Fuel Bank Foundation.

One of these services is the Broomhouse Pantry which was launched in 2021. Co-ordinator, Lee Reynolds, tells us more about it.

What led the Community One Stop Shop to set up the Broomhouse Pantry?

The aim of COSS is to alleviate the effects of poverty for the 300 or so people who use it each week. While still reeling from the devastating impact of the pandemic, the community was hit hard by the cost of living crisis. Our clients are faced with impossible choices around budgeting their income to make sure their families are fed and their houses kept sufficiently warm.

As a result, we saw a massive spike in the usage of the foodbank. We had clients, many working fulltime, who desperately wanted to support themselves and their families, but the high prices of basic foods made this impossible for them.

Often they were used to managing their own finances, but could no longer make them stretch far enough. Others had become reliant on the foodbank, but they were wanting to move towards a greater degree of independence by paying for, and choosing, their own groceries.

In partnership with Your Local Pantry, we launched the Broomhouse Pantry in 2021 to support these clients. The initiative enables members to do a weekly grocery shop, choosing a number of items including fresh fruit and vegetables, and paying a heavily subsidised priced.

A young child with a small bike, and an adult in Broomhouse Pantry

What has been the impact for your regulars?

We currently have 110 members, and most tell us that their health has improved as a result of cooking more meals from scratch with food they’ve bought at the Pantry.

A member recently told me “After I had heart surgery I couldn’t get to the supermarket. The cost of shopping at the local store was too high, so being able to get affordable fresh food locally has been really beneficial. It speeded up my recovery and helped me get my independence back.”

Another positive outcome from running this service is the emotional support we are able to offer members.

Since the premises is small, we only have the capacity to serve one client at a time. While each client is with us, our volunteers will chat to them and usually hear a bit more about what’s going on in their lives. For many, this is one of the few opportunities they get to speak to another person, and a rare chance to get emotional support for things they might be going through.”

One woman, a pantry regular, told me: 

“I lost my husband just before the Covid pandemic, so using the Pantry has given me the chance to get out and speak to people”.
"Shopping with dignity is something most people take for granted, but for those who don’t have the choice of where they go to buy their groceries, making the surroundings as user-friendly as possible has a huge impact on well-being."

How has Broomhouse Pantry responded to the needs of its members?

We have seen more and more people using the Pantry, not just as a shop to buy their groceries but as a place to chat to the team and to meet other people.

To build on this, we started hosting events for members. These have included family days out during the school summer holiday, an afternoon tea every Christmas, and regular pop-up community cafés.

What changes have you seen and how has this impacted the Pantry's work?

Last year, thanks to a generous donation by a local business, the pantry was fitted out with new shelving units, increasing the number of items which could be displayed on the shelves, as well as freeing up more floor space. For the first time, members using mobility scooters and those with children in prams and buggies could come right into the shop to see the selection of goods for themselves, rather than have to ask the server for the items they needed.

Shopping with dignity is something most people take for granted, but for those who don’t have the choice of where they go to buy their groceries, making the surroundings as user-friendly as possible has a huge impact on well-being.

How do you think Broomhouse Pantry will evolve in future?

With having such a cross-over of clients using multiple services, there is a constant demand for the Pantry’s services. We have had a waiting list for membership ever since we opened, and we are constantly reviewing the lists to make sure that we are operating at the optimum level.

We launched a steering group for the Pantry this year which was an opportunity for members to let us know what they like about the service, as well as offer suggestions for how things could be improved. It’s important to be in touch with our members so that what we are offering them is what they actually want.

And of course we are always looking at ways to build community amongst our members. We are hoping to host even more events, and to make sure the everyone feels able and welcome to come along and get to know more people in the area they live in.


Written by Gavin Aitchison - Media and Storytelling Officer