Our Beacon Award winner for 2022, Hyndburn Food Pantry has its roots in a community response to the effects of Covid-19 on people across the borough. Regularly supporting over 1100 households, and giving choice and dignity to those in food poverty, as well as reducing food waste, the 12 strong volunteer team help their service users feel cared for and nourished, their statement is that ‘no one should go to bed hungry’. I visited the Pantry in early July to chat to the volunteers and find out more.
Hyndburn Food Pantry opened its doors on 26 October 2021 and operates three days a week at present, from a shop located on Broadway in Accrington.
Customers fill in a simple form which can help identify additional support that could be offered, then, for £2.50 a shop, can choose their own items from the amply stocked shelves and fridge freezers. Each customer can fill a fruit and veg box for free too, and collect a free bakery product per household member.
Sanitary, cleaning and self-care essential items are distributed for free, meaning shoppers don’t need to decide between buying those and buying food.
Clayton Park Bakery donates a huge amount of baked goods once a week. All fruit and veg is bought from Smiths Fruit & Veg on the Market and much of the Pantry’s food is bought from the local Tesco on click & collect. The team resolve not to stock anything they wouldn’t eat or use themselves and are always open to suggestions. They also have a variety of Free From items and nut milks too to cater for all dietary needs.
A friendly, open tea-room at the back of the shop gives the chance for visitors to have a free biscuit and a brew. It also serves as a meeting place with volunteers on hand to sit, chat and lend a supportive ear. Margery, who worked at the museum before it closed said ‘We have many lonely people come here just to be with someone, to chat and feel listened to. I’m 77, I’ve survived Cancer, and volunteering at the Pantry is my way of giving back. I love the whole team, since we opened I’ve been here every day and I wouldn’t have it any other way!’ – at this point, a customer who’d been having a quiet coffee came over – ‘She’s spot on that lady!’ he said and patted Margery’s shoulder, giving us all a warm smile.
As he waved and left, Pantry Manager (and full time Local Authority Relationship Manager in her day job), Stacy told me ‘People are proud. Some might come fortnightly, or once a week if they need to. Some may only come when their money is stretched, maybe at the end of the month, so it gives them a little more to spend on other necessities. Everyone is welcome, no-one is judged. For people who cannot afford to shop we have a pay it forward scheme, there are always shops paid on.’
The Pantry is open 10am-2pm Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. By 9.45am there are normally queues forming with 20-30 people waiting by the time they open. The shop and tea-room are always busy with the team working hard to ensure that everyone gets what they need and that nothing is wasted. Each day, volunteers collect any food that’s best before the next opening day, pop it into a trolley and take it outside ten minutes before closing to give it away. Some people come and wait, just in case, sitting on the benches outside.
The Pantry works closely with other support networks, HARV and Lancashire Women’s Centres, Hyndburn Community Action Network and Hyndburn Borough Council and is fortunate to receive a lot of support from local businesses, especially The Arndale Centre. On Tuesdays, they have a Citizen’s Advice representative for customers to speak with, to get help and advice and make sure they’re aware of any support they may be able to access.
Volunteer Paul knows more than most about the power of getting help and support. Just over two years ago he was living under a railway bridge, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and feeling his life was running away from him. He’d moved out of the family home when his addiction started affecting his marriage, it caused a breakdown in his relationship with his Mum too.
Paul says ‘The toughest step was the first one, asking for help. It wasn’t easy, but the recovery support in Accrington is incredible. Two years ago I was living under a bridge drinking two bottles of vodka a day, two weeks ago I was part of this incredible team receiving a business award in a beautiful hotel. I’ve come so far, it’s all about giving back now, I’m very proud to be volunteering here at the Pantry and helping support other people in difficult situations.’
Paul has been clean now for almost two years, attends AA and NA meetings weekly, and credits volunteering at Hyndburn Food Pantry as something that keeps him on the straight and narrow. He loves chatting with and helping customers, and sharing his story to reassure them that help is out there.
If you’d like to support the work of Hyndburn Food Pantry and help them help people in need in our area, or you know someone who would benefit from their help, do follow them on Facebook or go in to find out more. If you’d like to pay a shop on just bob in to the shop and chat to the friendly team.
Huge thanks to all the volunteers for giving me, and every customer such a warm welcome to the Pantry, and for providing such an important and much needed service to individuals and families in Hyndburn.
NB! The team has big plans for Christmas and will be providing a Festive Feast for their customers. Customers can save towards a Christmas shop too, just ask Margery for more details.
Main photo – Pantry Volunteers L to R: Anne, Rean, Stacy, Cheryl, Paul & Stephen.