As part of the Your Local Pantry (YLP) network, Edible Estates partnered with Wester Hailes Growing Communities and The Health Agency to open Sunflower Pantry in the Clovenstone Community Centre back in November 2022. The project has seen a steady increase in membership and some welcome developments since it’s opening. So, what is a Local Food Pantry? What does it aim to achieve, and what has Sunflower Pantry been upto since it’s launch? Read on to find out more!
The YLP network currently has 80 pantries, which support over 90,000 people facing food insecurity across all four UK nations. Food insecurity can result in households reducing the amount or quality of food they eat to save costs. YLP aims to alleviate this by creating a positive shopping environment where members of a local community can foster relationships with other local people while shopping for affordable, high-quality food. Outlined in YLP’s 2021 impact report, 95% of pantry members said that using a pantry has helped their financial situation, with households noting that the money they saved through pantry membership allowed them to buy better quality foods at the supermarket, fund activities for their children, or save the money for special occasions or emergency costs.
Members pay a small weekly fee, and in turn can choose 10 items from the pantry as well as a selection of free fresh fruit and vegetables, with families that visit weekly able to save up to £780 per year, and 54% of members stating they were able to eat more nutritious food by visiting their local pantry. Fresh, frozen, refrigerated, and long-life foods are all available. Stock is often redirected to pantries from larger retailers via Fareshare, a charity that aims to reduce food waste and fight hunger by ensuring food surplus can be distributed among local community organisations. Supplies are also donated by local retailers and organisations.
Sunflower Pantry, Scotland’s sixth and newest addition to the network, had a successful opening on the 29th of November 2022, serving as a welcome addition to the community of Wester Hailes. Open every Tuesday from 9:30am-1:30pm, the pantry serves local people and costs £4.50 per shop, with one membership required per household. In the six months since it’s launch, pantry membership has been in high demand, with 84 members representing 144 adults and 115 children, and a total of 500 visits – meaning 5000 items taken.
As a non-profit initiative, the pantry’s membership fees are put straight back into stock, part of which is supplied by Fareshare. The pantry has also received welcome donations from The Coop, the Gyle’s Morrisons, and Hermiston Gait’s Tesco.
A wide range of free, seasonal, and fresh fruit and vegetables are also on offer to all members. Produce is often locally sourced, with Wester Hailes Growers regularly harvesting and hand-delivering seasonal produce to bring the field to fork process full circle.
The pantry is also delighted to be offering free cat and dog food to all members, courtesy of Edinburgh Cat and Dog Home, who recognize the importance of supporting families to keep their beloved pets at home during financial hardship, and aim to support pantry members with the cost of pet food. Additionally, in line with the Scottish Government’s legislation to ensure that free period products are made available to everyone, pantry members are able to pick-up a wide-range of free sanitary products including cups, reusable pads and reusable pants, all courtesy of Hey Girls, an Edinburgh-based non-profit that produces reusable and biodegradable sanitary products.
With the service in high demand, the team have also been serving a weekly Community Lunch to locals, open to everyone in the community, and often featuring fresh, seasonal produce harvested by Wester Hailes Growers. With this, the team hope to foster a warm, positive, and social space for members of the community. Additionally, the team regularly share recipe cards on their social media channels, and recently hosted a successful Healthy Little Foodies workshop with Jess from Edinburgh Community Food, where parents were given practical, interactive advice on weaning, early-years nutrition, and fussy eating. The Pantry also hosted a Coffee Morning on 23rd May 2023, where freshly baked scones were on offer as well as tea and coffee, alongside the opportunity for members to give their feedback regarding the service.
Looking to the future, the pantry has recently been funded by the The National Lottery’s Cost of Living Fund for 12 months. With this, the team are looking to extend opening hours, and establish a ‘cook club’ in the upcoming summer holidays, which parents and children can attend. The cook club will continue throughout the project’s lifetime, using seasonal produce from local community gardens alongside produce from the pantry, with an emphasis on creating delicious new recipes using more ‘unloved’ foods.
Food pantries provide communities with an opportunity to move away from the need for foodbanks and create welcoming spaces that provide dignified access to food, which all aids in the move towards Scotland becoming a Good Food Nation. They also help to reduce food waste, which is a welcome bonus in light of the climate crisis. We are delighted to be a part of these positive changes through the establishment of The Sunflower Pantry, and look forward to expanding what the pantry can offer.
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