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Christian charity encourages churches to go beyond food banks
Christian charity Church Action on Poverty has encouraged local communities and churches to start food pantries as a long-term solution to tackling food poverty in their area.
The charity, along with homeless service Stockport Home, started the Your Local Pantry project four years ago in Stockport.
New research has found that the pantries increase people's health and wellbeing, build community, and reduce social isolation.
Members of the pantry pay a small weekly fee, typically £2.50, for which they can choose at least ten items of food each week, along with additional opportunities of volunteering and training.
Laura Jones, pantries programme officer at Church Action on Poverty, told Premier it's a step on from a food bank model.
"It just goes beyond giving people shopping baskets and cupboards," she said.
"People have the opportunity to socialise before and after the pantry is open, but also receive debt advice or housing advice and we signpost people to different services.
"Membership is ongoing as well. It's not limited. It's not an allocation of three or four times they're able to come. In addition to that, there are volunteering opportunities, training opportunities and a chance to become a real part of the community as well."
The study found that the pantries helped improved the financial positions of its members. Also, for every £1 invested that pantries have generated a £6 return in social value.
One pantry member said: "With the food bank, I feel like I'm lowering myself. I'd rather go without food. And it's local, people I know are there. The pantry feels different because you have paid and you are making a choice on the food you take home."
Church Action on Poverty has a goal of opening 50 pantries across the UK. It's currently working with a number of organisations and churches to help more struggling families and has invited more churches to join the movement.
Listen to Laura Jones speaking with Premier's Tola Mbakwe here:
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