The success story of a community shop offering cut-price food to Wolverhampton families in need was recently shared with a senior Government advisor.
Sir Hector Sants, chair of the Money and Pension Service, heard how people are able to make huge savings on their groceries and other household essentials at the Big Venture Community Shop when he visits the city.
The shop, based at the Big Venture Centre in Chesterton Road, The Scotlands, is run in partnership with City of Wolverhampton Council.
It is open Monday to Thursday and anyone who lives in Wolverhampton can become a member and benefit from heavily discounted food, recipe ideas and advice. Customers are reporting savings to their weekly food bills of between £30 and £50.
Products such as fresh meat, bread, fruit and vegetables are purchased from local suppliers and other products are sourced via the Fairshare scheme. Supermarkets including Marks & Spencer, Lidl, Aldi, Asda and Sainsburys also provide surplus stock which would otherwise go to waste and is made available for free.
Customers pay an initial £5 membership fee and are then able to visit as many times as they wish.
Sir Hector visited the Black Country to meet with members of the Black Country Financial Inclusion Partnership which include the four Black Country councils, Citizens Advice, credit unions and charity Transforming Communities Together. The partnership is working to help people in need and tackle the cost of living crisis.
During the visit, he visited a branch of Citizens Advice and a local foodbank, and also heard about examples of good practice from across the Black Country including Dudley Council’s scam prevention unit and Sandwell’s food pantry initiative.
Leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, Councillor Ian Brookfield, said: “I've recently been to the Big Venture Centre and we spoke about the community shop. It's an excellent idea to sell food at really low prices to anyone who needs it. Every little bit helps people face this terrible cost of living crisis.
“You’re talking about fresh fruit and veg, meat, bread, groceries and toiletries for a fraction of what you would pay in the shops. As well as the cheap prices, the centre also provides recipe ideas and educates people about healthy eating and cooking on a budget.
“As a council which is determined to help people with the cost of living crisis, we took the decision to make an initial investment in terms of the set up costs etc and the volunteers at the centre run the place and it’s working fantastically well and has more than 300 members having only been open for a few weeks.
“The hope is that it will turn over enough money to become self-sustaining and we intend to role out more of these over the summer in Whitmore Reans, Graiseley, East Park, Bilston and we will have a mobile unit as well.
“Many people prefer the idea of going to a shop and paying something for their food, so we are finding this model removes the stigma of perhaps accessing something for free like a food bank. It is based in the heart of the community as well which makes it easier for people to get to without having to worry about catching a bus or paying for a taxi.”
Kim Payne, manager of the Big Venture Centre, said: “The support we have had from the city council to deliver this much-needed project at a grassroots level is really appreciated.
“They have listened and enabled us to run a pilot project through the opening of the community shop and the results of this are just phenomenal. We are reaching out to so many people in need, whether they are working or not, who in many instances would simply fall through the net because they don’t fit this or that criteria
“The shop is helping to give people back a sense of pride as they no longer have to queue for food and be given free hand-outs. It is helping people to budget their money better, we are able to signpost people to other services that can support them if needed and we are seeing some of them want to become volunteers themselves.”