Foyle Foodbank at Apex Living Centre in Derry helps families by providing them with emergency food. From next month, a food club will be piloted at the centre enabling ‘members’ to access a supply of everyday foods.
One of five pilots in Strabane, Lisburn, Coleraine, Belfast and Derry-Londonderry, the food club at the Apex Living Centre will operate alongside the Foyle Foodbank which currently provides emergency food packages for families in crisis.
The Foodbank is reliant on volunteers and food donations from the public. But, while volunteers provide a listening ear and signpost users to other services, they are not able to address the root causes of food poverty. This is where the social supermarket will come to the fore as it has the potential to offer long term solutions to food poverty.
DfC funding will support a full-time Apex Living Coordinator who will run this new initiative on a membership basis. For those joining, there will be a small membership fee. But, to become a member, applicants must demonstrate that they are prepared to address the issues in their lives that are leading to food poverty. Apex will then organise a series of helpful interventions, targeted at the specific needs of the individual, which may be for a few weeks or a number of months, depending on each case. These will aim to improve knowledge and skills in areas such as money matters, cooking and nutrition, personal development, employability and positive well-being including managing stress, improved mental health and low level physical exercise.
In return for their commitment, members will be able to access a supply of everyday foods.This includes perishable foods such as fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and items classified as ‘damaged’ or incorrectly packaged but nevertheless safe for consumption. Other food items are available as a result of over-production by food processors. The types of food described here would formerly have been destined for landfill.
However, surplus food items will be limited in choice in comparison to a typical supermarket, and availability of specific stock items will vary from week to week.
Origins of pantry projects: The concept emerged in the UK in 2013, usually referred to as “social supermarkets”, with the dual aim of reducing food poverty and food waste. Although only a relatively new phenomenon in the UK, they have been popular in the rest of Europe since the 1980s, with France alone having over 500 such outlets.
Addressing a growing need: The Foyle Foodbank is now an established and hugely important Apex initiative which provided emergency food for 3,500 adults and children during 2017. Only 18 months in existence, the Foodbank is already a vital resource for those in food distress. As we look to the future, we are extremely concerned that the coming changes to welfare benefits will impact hugely on our tenants in the years to come and hence our strong commitment to both the Foyle Foodbank and the Apex Living Social Supermarket, and the other initiatives set out in our community investment strategy.
The chief executive of Apex, Gerry Kelly said, “As we look to the future, we are extremely concerned that the coming changes to welfare benefits will impact hugely on our tenants in the years to come and hence our strong commitment to both the Foyle Foodbank and the Apex Food Club, and the other initiatives set out in our community investment strategy. We have visited pantry projects in Stockport and Salford and see how local, hard-pressed communities there greatly value them. The Apex Food Club will provide great value for money for tenants helping their limited disposable income to go that bit further”.