After hearing about the number of people in her area who were going hungry, 62-year-old Carole Jones launched the Vale Pantry in 2020, a community food shop in North Dorset, which is a twist on the traditional food bank.
Members pay £6 to secure a regular, weekly shop including fresh and frozen food, the basic staples, fresh meat, fish and eggs plus tinned foods and cereal. The Vale Pantry aims to help tackle food poverty in North Dorset and its services have already been used by thousands in her local area and helped over 160 families get back to full independence.
“After setting up and running the local Covid response team, I saw the extent of food insecurity and realised that food poverty is hidden from most of society,” Carole tells Smiley News, reflecting on setting up the pantry. “Seeing this, I decided to set up and open the Vale Pantry in order to start taking action as soon as lockdown lifted.”
“People can self-refer themselves to our initiative, where we then check their eligibility and if they meet the criteria, we accept them as ‘members’,” explains Carole.
“Thereafter, the individuals can come once a week with a small donation to choose all the food items they would like. Unlike a traditional food bank, our offerings allow the individual to choose the items they require including fresh fruit, veg, meat, fish, dairy along with other family staples and range of household foods and personal care items.”
The pantry is funded by Carole applying for grants, fundraising, and sent out letters to individuals. The demand for the services has increased this winter, says Carole. “It’s the busiest we’ve ever been, to the point we may unfortunately have to start a waiting list for new members.”
Thankfully, she has support from a UK charity, In Kind Direct, which distributes new donated usable consumer goods from manufacturers and retailers to British charities.
“We receive items such as washing powder, shower gels, cleaning products, nappies and period products which we can then distribute to help people in our local community,” says Carole. “The charity offers an easy, cost-effective solution to product giving which helps our restricted funds go even further.”
But there is always the need for more support. “If you work for a company which sells items such as the ones mentioned, please urge them to contact In Kind Direct to make a donation,” says Carole. “These products will then be distributed to charitable organisations like mine so we can continue to support more people in hardship this winter.”
Find out more about the Vale Pantry on its website.