Framework sections highlighted: Action, Change, Listening, Reach

Social Supermarket shakes things up in Stafford

At a time when food poverty was becoming a growing concern for the people of Stafford, a group of local community members who had completed community organising training with the Old Chapel Works Social Action Hub decided to explore the issue further.

The Stafford organising group listened to a range of stakeholders in the community, including food growers, shop owners, independent traders, voluntary sector workers, and local council representatives. From this listening process emerged the idea of opening a social supermarket for Stafford, where surplus food is sold at discounted prices to members of the local community. The aim of the social supermarket idea is to reduce food waste whilst destigmatising the issue of food poverty for individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet.

County Stores Supermarket opened its doors in July last year and recruited 300 members within the first two months. They are now feeding more than 100 families per week with food that would have gone to landfill, including fresh fruit and veg. Like many social supermarkets across the country, County Stores Supermarket gets much of its stock from Fareshare – a national organisation who collects surplus food from the food industry and redistributes it to charities and community projects.

But in addition to deliveries from Fareshare, County Stores also receives generous donations from local people who have brought homemade jams and chutneys, and locally grown fruit and vegetables grown on allotments nearby.

Eileen, a community organiser based at the Old Chapel Works, believes that much of the success of the supermarket is down to the work put in by the group of community organisers who have been building relationships in the area for years. “The network we now have access to has helped the shop gain donations and members,” said Eileen.

The shop has already made an impact on a number of individuals and families in the area and has received many heartfelt comments on their facebook page. One customer, Irene, said: “Great to support a community project which benefits not only local people but also our beautiful planet,” and describe the supermarket as “a complete ‘feelgood’ shop.”

“We’ve got independents, community people, farmers, allotment growers [using the shop]. They are really starting to have somewhere where they can all see each other together.”
Eileen Jordan, Staffordshire community organiser

Creating a welcoming atmosphere for customers is also a way of building relationships with a wide range of people in the area, who can then be listened to and supported by Stafford’s growing team of community organisers to build their collective power, Eileen explains:

“We’ve got independents, community people, farmers, allotment growers [using the shop]. They are really starting to have somewhere where they can all see each other together.”

Eileen hopes that for many who visit the shop, the group’s story will inspire them to take action on the issues they are passionate about. “I think the power will really come from those who visit the shop,” she explained. Eileen said that through listening to the customers, the community organising team are “able to guide people and build their capacity. Now we want to get them trained up and let them know – if we’ve got the guts to do this, just us, then trust me – you can do it too.”

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