The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network is here to help all of Edgbaston’s community assets with everything from grants and funding applications to networking and promotion. That’s why Community Connectors Deb and Natalie are always on the lookout for new community projects to meet, learn from, and support! Every two months, they speak to one of our assets in depth and feature them in the the ENNS Newsletter. (You may remember the Sar Ramz Cooking Club from our December newsletter and Digikick from February.)
For the April newsletter, Deb and Natalie visited a new food pantry in Quinton.
Focus on Assets: Your Local Pantry
By Deb Ufton and Natalie Tichareva
For the last month, the Haven Centre and B32 Community CIC have been working behind the scenes to launch a food pantry, called ‘Your Local Pantry’. So we went along on a sunny Friday afternoon to find out more!
The Haven Centre is run by Rachel and her husband Simon, with a small team of staff and volunteers, and was already the first port of call for many local people who needed support or advice. However, when Covid hit, the team realised it was an opportunity to show the community that they were there for them. As Rachel said, “we couldn’t close the doors on people when they needed us the most”. So, for the last year, the activities and support the Haven offers have changed and grown according to local people’s needs.
Realising that there was an increased need for food, Rachel and Simon got together with Kerry and Becky from another popular Quinton community group, B32 Community CIC, and came up with the idea of a food pantry, to be based at the Haven Centre. They contacted Shabir Jivraj, Project Officer for the national organisation ‘Your Local Pantry’, and he helped them to set up.
The ‘pantry’ model enables people to access help by becoming members and paying a very small amount for food: for £4.50, members receive shopping worth between £20 and £30. The idea is to make sure no-one feels any sense of shame in accessing the essentials they need.
Your Local Pantry at the Haven has been running quietly behind the scenes for the last few Fridays, but now Rachel, Simon, Kerry and Becky hope that more people in the community who need help with food will sign up and become pantry members.
When we went along, pantry staff and volunteers from the Haven and B32 Community had created a welcoming environment for visitors, with Bob Marley playing on the radio and all who entered being offered a drink and a chat before accessing the pantry.
A local resident told us, “It’s a great thing! I came down during lockdown and it’s really helped. I love it so much, I’ve brought my mom too.”
It’s obvious that Your Local Pantry is a perfect complement for the other activities held at the Haven. The atmosphere at the Centre is happy and peaceful, and there’s something for everyone. In-person meetups of the long-established Older Adults Group, Youth Club, and Women’s Group are slowly being re-introduced; last week the Haven held a Stay and Play and this week they’re going to have a ‘pop up lunch’ at the Pantry.
Jade, who works at Your Local Pantry at the Haven, told us, “Work doesn’t feel like work. I first started to come to the Haven through the Women’s Group, and I really enjoyed it so I became a volunteer.”
From volunteering, Jade then became a member of staff, something which has helped her build confidence and recognise her skills. “Before I found the Haven I was in such a bad place, but I didn’t really realise I was in a bad place,” she says, “and I can see that in many of the people we help.”
We loved visiting Your Local Pantry and think it’s a great initiative, so we hope lots of people in the Edgbaston Neighbourhood community will sign up as members and make the most of it.
Your Local Pantry will be available on Fridays, 12 – 2pm, at the Haven, on Rilstone Road in Quinton. For more information, and details on how to sign up, contact the Haven Centre on 0121 681 0388, or simply keep your eyes peeled on social media – visit the Haven Centre on Facebook or B32 Community CIC on Facebook.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Your Local Pantry nationally, or setting up your own, visit the Your Local Pantry website, or contact YourLocalPantry@thrivetogetherbham.org.