Funding boost to establish new 'affordable food network'

Plans to create community shops across Derbyshire to support local residents are being backed by the county council.

The authority has agreed to give £300,000 to Rural Action Derbyshire to help set up 12 community shops and pantries in some of Derbyshire’s most deprived areas.

The shops and pantries selling nutritious food and groceries will be part of a countywide ‘affordable food network’ which is expected to be self-sustaining within two years.

Pilot areas for the new scheme have already been identified in Shirebrook, Bolsover, and Holmewood, North-East Derbyshire, although the ambition is to have one in every district and borough - including the High Peak. 

Councillor Carol Hart, DCC's Cabinet Member for health and communities, said the new initiative would "provide a stepping stone out of crisis" for people in food poverty by creating a longer term and more sustainable alternative to food banks.

Cllr Hart said: “Many people have had to turn to food banks to help them get through some very difficult times, even more so since the coronavirus pandemic hit.

"By supporting the creation of an affordable food network in communities we’ll be able to help people struggling with low incomes and debt to access affordable, nutritious food and offer an alternative to food banks." 

A report to the council's Cabinet said work was already under way in scoping out the initiative which had identified three models of delivery:

  • Pop-up shops
  • Locations within existing community venues
  • Mobile delivery.

Although how the scheme is run will vary, depending on location, the principles of the scheme will be the same.

Each community shop or pantry would aim to attract 100 members, each paying a small yearly membership fee. Members would also pay a small contribution toward the cost of the food for the weekly visit to the shop.

Starting small, the initiative is expected to grow to 12 outlets within two years.

Run by Rural Action Derbyshire through the Feeding Derbyshire project, its aims are to support and strengthen self-esteem of members, increase self-reliance and resilience, as well as reduce reliance on food banks.

Feeding Derbyshire is a countywide partnership aimed at finding sustainable solutions to help feed people who are struggling with low incomes and debt, enabling them to access good quality, nutritious food.

Led by Rural Action Derbyshire (RAD), working with a range of partners including the county council, Feeding Derbyshire co-ordinates a network of more than 30 foodbanks operating across 41 locations. The partnership also supports the work of community cafés, school holiday clubs, breakfast and after-school clubs across Derbyshire.

During the pandemic, RAD set-up a batch cook-delivery scheme involving 12 projects providing ready meals to some of the most vulnerable people in the county.

Welcoming the funding, Beverley Parker, CEO of Rural Action Derbyshire, said: “We are thrilled to have the continued support of the county council. 

“Even before the pandemic some families and individuals on low incomes struggled to afford to put food on the table, not just occasionally but regularly. By developing community pantries and shops we can make affordable food available to those who need it most."

Councillor Hart added: “The work of Feeding Derbyshire is helping support many of the county’s most vulnerable people but we need longer-term solutions to food insecurity. Funding the creation of community shops and pantries is very much a step in the right direction.”

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