Social Supermarkets

Apparently giving people food without asking for any payment is a breach of their human rights. But for those who have no food and no money a foodbank is often the answer for a short term crisis solution. But what about a longer term fix? I was given an opportunity to visit “Community Shop” in Goldthorpe near Barnsley in Yorkshire, a one time coal town. It looks like any other shop from the outside with windows covered in information so the inside isn’t visible. Entry is by a swipe card just like for a hotel bedroom and the cards are only issues to a maximum of 750 people at any one time and to qualify you must be on a means tested benefit.

This is the next step on the ladder to financial recovery after foodbank – paying for food but not at the full price. Surplus food is bought from manufacturers and supermarkets, all still in date but available simply because of over-production. Normally disposal would cost the manufacturer or supermarket but Community shop will pay them 10% of the shelf price so the food isn’t destroyed. The supermarket then sells it to its customers for 30% of the shelf price which means they get heavily discounted food but the 20% covers the supermarket costs. They stock 800 lines covering all the main shopping items except alcohol and tobacco. Partner supermarkets include Asda and Waitrose as well as M&S.

There are currently two “Community Shops”, the other being situated in South Norwood, London. They receive logistical support from “Company Shop” which operates discount priced shopping outlets for employees of large companies.

But here’s the big difference between these two supermarkets and the others on the High Street. During the 6 month membership customers undertake a programme which includes cookery and nutrition and a dedicated fortnight getting ready for a guaranteed interview with a potential employer. One of the staff is a chef who provides meals for those on the courses often inviting them to help. The kitchen and cafe is airy and well kitted out all of which honours the clients.

It is a real place of hope.

Will we see more? I hope so.

Mark Ward LLM

One Comment On “Social Supermarkets”

  1. A customer scans the shelves at Community Shop, the U.K.’s first “social supermarket.” The discount grocery stores are growing in popularity across Europe and are open exclusively to those in need.

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