New Research Shows Local Pantries Save Members £21 A Week And Improve Health And Wellbeing

Members of one of the UK’s largest networks of community food Pantries are saving £21 a week on shopping and enjoying significantly improved health and well-being, new research reveals.

Your Local Pantry’s So Much More! report is published today, on the same day as the network’s 100th Pantry opens, at Aylesham in Kent.

The report involved extensive research into the impact of Local Pantries on individual members and neighbourhoods. It finds that:

  • There are now more than 35,000 people benefiting from Pantry membership in nearly 13,000 households. [See footnotes for regional figures]
  • Pantry members typically save £21 a week when they visit, meaning a potential saving of more than £1,000 a year. 
  • There were 226,000 Pantry visits UK-wide last year, saving members a total of £4.75m.
  • Most Pantry members report improved household finances, better physical and mental health, new friendships and a strengthened community connection.
  • All Pantries serve as stepping stones to additional local support, or provide it themselves.
  • There are now around 2,000 volunteers across the Pantry network.

Anna, a member at Kingston Pantry quoted in the report, said“Since we joined we can afford more for our children, e.g. better school shoes, ice cream for a treat, occasionally.”

As well as detailing the remarkable impact of Pantries, the report highlights the impact of the cost of living emergency for low-income communities. 

… because the cost of the fuel prices have increased … we just haven’t been able to save. We’re just lucky that we’ve got this. It provides me with a sense of security, knowing that we have the food to eat and we don’t have to worry about finding a large amount of money to do family shops.

Lucy, member of Hope Pantry, Merthyr Tydfil

James Henderson, Your Local Pantry network development coordinator, said: “Pantries have enabled tens of thousands of people around the UK to strengthen their community and loosen the grip of high prices. They reduce isolation, foster community, improve health and save people money. They are a reminder that communities can do and be so much more when they come together.”

Church Action on Poverty, which coordinates the network, today calls again for increased Government action to ensure all incomes are raised to an adequate level. The charity warned that supply chain issues mean many Pantries now have to buy in more food than before.

Niall Cooper, chief executive of Church Action on Poverty, said:

Community organisations have long warned that charity is not the long-term answer to household food insecurity.  Many Pantries are now having to spend significant sums on food to top up their stocks, as FareShare struggles to meet rising need. This should be a wake-up call to the whole country. Everyone should have access to good food.  Government must do much more to guarantee everyone can afford the essentials, and prevent even more people being swept into poverty by an economy beyond their control.

So Much More! is based on a survey of 1,149 Pantry members, a separate survey of 46 Pantry hosts, economic analysis of typical Pantry basket contents, and interviews with members at nine Pantries.

The researchers found evidence of extensive benefits in several categories:

  • FINANCES: 97% of members say Pantry 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 local community and 66% have made new friends 
  • FOOD ACCESS AND VARIETY: 69% of members are eating more fresh fruit and vegetables; 67% are trying new foods; 59% are eating less processed food; and 47% are eating more food

Since 2020, just over 90,000 people in 33,000 households have benefited from Pantry membership.

The Pantry opening today at Aylesham in Kent is the 100th, and a further 125 are expected to open by the end of 2025, through a partnership with The Coop.

The first Pantry opened 10 years ago in Stockport. There were four Pantries by 2018, 35 by 2021 and now 100.

Written by: Church Action on Poverty

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