‘Social Supermarket' launched to tackle food poverty

  • Mayor of London Boris Johnson has launched a £300,000 fund to create ‘social supermarkets'. /images/briefing/peoplecircle.jpg

    The capital will trial these ‘social supermarkets' as a way of making food that could be classed as unwanted available cheaply to those who are on low incomes, reports 24dash.

    According to the Mr Johnson, all the food is "in-date and wholseome" but would have been thrown away by retailers for a variety of reasons, including items packaged and weighed incorrectly and over-production.

    Boroughs in London are able to apply for a share in the fund to set up pilot supermarkets which are aimed to help families on low incomes and offer a range of supportive community services.

    The shops will receive funding from the Mayor's High Street Fund, which is aimed at helping London's high streets adapt and thrive.

    The first ‘social supermarket' has opening in Lambeth, with the shops customers being local people. The shop has a ‘Community Hub', where a range of local partners provide mentoring, budgeting and debt advice, job training and cookery classes.

    To be eligible to join the shop customers have to be on lower incomes and live locally. The shop uses any excess stock as ingredients in its popular in-house community café.

    Boris Johnson, said: "I want to see more innovative schemes on our high streets that tackle food waste, help communities and offer access to a variety of good standard cheaper food. Community Shop's range of training and skills services make it a hugely positive resource. My funding will help boroughs kick start similar ‘social supermarket' ventures that can really help local people on tight budgets. I'm also immensely proud that small cafes and restaurants have managed to stop 1,000 tonnes of food being wasted by strategically diverting their surplus stock with help from my FoodSave scheme. It's important we continue to reduce London's landfill and ensure quality edible food is not discarded."

    Mark Game, managing director of Community Shop, said: "Opening a successful social supermarket requires retail space, food partners, local authority backing and infrastructure funding. We urge those who want to support us widen our network across London, in particular local authorities, to come forward. The funding announced today by the Mayor - who has always been such a huge supporter of ours - will be a real help as we develop across the capital."

    Cllr Lib Peck, Lambeth council leader, said: "Community Shop in Lambeth was the first in London, and it is proving to be a fantastic initiative, making a very real difference to people's lives. It now has 500 members in Lambeth and has also been helping local people into work through its support programmes. We're only too aware how difficult it has become for hundreds of families living on the breadline with rising costs and government cuts over the last few years, and Community Shop is providing a lifeline for many in our borough. It does a great job of matching up perfectly good surplus food with those who need it. But it's not only about food - it's about making communities that bit fairer and supporting those people who need a little bit of extra help; that's why we've been happy to facilitate Community Shop in Lambeth."

    But London Assembly Labour Group Fiona Twycross warned: "Social supermarkets are an innovative way to help combat food waste and poverty, however the fact that so many Londoners are being forced to rely on these kinds of services is deeply concerning. The mayor has to accept that increasing numbers of Londoners facing low pay, underemployment and benefit sanctions are relying on these kinds of enterprises, not out of choice but need. Today's investment is welcome but the mayor must not feel he has done his bit or be complacent, far more needs to be done to win the fight against hunger."

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