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Local Pantry celebrates its first anniversary

31 March 2022 : Council news, Community, Partnership working

Volunteers at Rowbarton Local Pantry (RLP), based at Rowbarton Methodist Church in Taunton, celebrated their first year of operation last Wednesday, 23 March 2022.

Representing one of four in a growing network of district pantry schemes, RLP was the first of its kind to be piloted by Somerset West and Taunton (SWT) Council with the aim of mitigating food insecurity, whilst reducing food waste and associated CO2 emissions.

Operating as a membership scheme, the ‘Pantry Model’ seeks to prevent huge volumes of excess food from going to waste by redistributing it at an affordable price to local families.

The model has been successfully adopted in other areas of the UK and is proven to be a sustainable and long-term solution, particularly helping lower income households struggling to put meals on the table.

RLP is run by community volunteers and over the past 12 months, it has successfully saved and redistributed over 6,000 kg worth of food, initially to 23 families in the north Taunton area, which has now grown to 40 households.

The volunteer staff work in partnership with national food charity FareShare South West, local retailers and allotment groups to gather good, surplus food for redistribution to its members at low cost.

For just £3.50 a week, registered households have benefitted from between ten and fifteen food items worth £15 to £20, which is equivalent to an annual estimated saving of £1,144. In addition to shelf-stable food, items include fresh produce such as cheese, milk, fruit and vegetables.

The RLP team also offers advice for budgeting, meal planning and cookery classes, as well as occasional activities to connect with their members and improve health and well-being.

To mark their first anniversary, the team has gathered recipes from members and volunteers to publish a recipe book which will be gifted to members.

Angela Bolitho, SWT Engagement Lead for North Taunton, said: “The local community has benefitted greatly from Rowbarton Local Pantry and we’re pleased to be in regular communication with the Team Leader, Gillian Flick and Rowbarton Church, promoting it to professionals who work in the area with residents and sharing news of local events and opportunities that might be of interest to the members”.

Two further pantries are due to launch in the district soon. The first will be in Minehead run by the well-established West Somerset Food Cupboard. Anyone interested in joining or volunteering should contact Ali Sanderson by emailing foodcupboardws@outlook.com.

Helen Phillips, the Local Pantry Project Manager, has also been working with Paula Appleby who will be managing a pantry in Wellington, to be known as the ‘Best Before Food Store’. For volunteering opportunities at Wellington’s pantry, email Paula at wellingtonpantry@gmail.com.

Start-up funding and support is still available for groups interested in setting up a pantry in their local area. For enquiries, contact Helen Phillips via thelocalpantry@somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk.

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