More cut-price community shops to help 'struggling' families

The Burrell Shop in Thetford

The Burrell Shop in Thetford has proved a huge success. - Credit: Billie Lawler

Demand caused by cost of living rises is to see a network of community shops offering a cut-price lifeline to struggling families expanded across Norfolk.

The Nourishing Norfolk Network, which started life with a single pilot hub based in Thetford, plans to expand to 15 community supermarkets by the end of the year.

The Burrell shop has now opened at the Charles Burrell Centre, in Thetford, offering a much-needed l

The Burrell shop offers a much-needed life line for residents who are feeling the pinch. - Credit: Gary Donnison

It aims to support 5,000 households, offering members affordable groceries at heavily subsidised prices.

Claire Cullens, chief executive of the Norfolk Community Foundation, which funded the first shop with Breckland Council and Feeding Britain, said it had initially been a response to the pandemic but was now needed more than ever. 

“With price increases and the cost of living through energy prices rising, as well as the rise in National Insurance, we know that this is going to get much worse,” she said. 

Norfolk Community Foundation chief executive Claire Cullens

Norfolk Community Foundation chief executive Claire Cullens. - Credit: Danielle Booden

With Norfolk so heavily associated with agriculture, it cannot be right that an estimated 57,000 people were being forced to cut back on meals or seek help accessing food every month, she added. 

“Many of these people are in work. They are people who are just struggling to make ends meet.”

The Burrell Shop, which opened in 2020 on the Burrell estate - where there are many food bank participants and a high number of pupils receiving free school meals - has seen over 350 Thetford households become members, feeding around 1,200 people.

Free vegetables at The Food Pantry in Feltwell.

Free and cut-price vegetables many donated by local farmers at the community shop in Feltwell. - Credit: The Food Pantry

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It has been followed by The Food Pantry Feltwell, a smaller shop run by volunteers serving a highly rural community, and the Shrublands Food Club, which supports households in Gorleston - an area where there is increasing need.

The initiative is about to launch two more community shops in Norwich; the Soul Foundation Social Supermarket and The Feed Social Supermarket on Hall Road.

Lucy Parish, of The Feed, which is opening its store offering affordable groceries as well as advice sessions and other help in association with Norwich City Council, said: “It will be a dignified food support service that provides routes into other support services to prevent the need for emergency food provision.”

Lucy Parish, chief executive officer of The Feed in Norwich

Lucy Parish, chief executive officer of The Feed in Norwich - Credit: The Feed

The community-run shops work on a member basis with families who wish to use its services asked to sign up with a one-off small joining fee.

Ms Cullens said they sell short shelf-life food, sourced from big national networks, and surplus supplies from farmers and local supermarkets, with families saving an average 40pc on a weekly shop.

“It allows people to stabilise, plan and budget and make ends meet at a time when they might not be able to,” she said.

“In contrast to something like a foodbank where you get help when suddenly thrown into crisis through something like redundancy, we wanted something where people make choices rather than receiving help but not being able to move out of it.”

The Burrell shop has now opened at the Charles Burrell Centre, in Thetford, offering a much-needed l

The Burrell Shop where members pay a small-fee to access affordable groceries at heavily subsidised prices. - Credit: Gary Donnison

Also opening imminently is the Breckland Mobile Food Store, a bus service offering cut-price goods, and a Norfolk distribution hub with a further 13 will be able to open if funding and support can be secured.

“It is a great way for Norfolk to come together to support local people. We are a food growing county. The idea that anyone should go hungry is a hard one to live with,” said Ms Cullens.

“We must be able to do something and we do have surplus food but the only way to do it is we all work together as a system.

“The way that it is working is people coming together and supporting the set up of these organisations, local farmers and businesses donating food, while we coordinate that response with charities and local authorities.”

Once established the stores will also offer other practical help, support and for families hit hard by the cost of living increases

A shopper at Shrublands Community Foodclub in Gorleston.

A shopper at Shrublands Community Foodclub in Gorleston. - Credit: Archant

“Families have pressing bills in front of them and they have all gone up,” she added. “ Which ones do you choose to pay? Which ones do you go without? These aren’t luxuries, eating and being in a home that is warm enough.

“People just don’t have enough disposable income to match the costs of living even on margins today.” 

Where to find community food shops

The Burrell Shop 

Based at Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford. It is open Monday to Wednesday from 4pm to 6pm, Thursday 9am-1pm and Saturday 10am to noon. 

After paying a one-off joining fee of £3.50 per household, members can buy fresh, frozen, dried and tinned food, alongside toiletries, nappies and personal care items.

The Food Pantry Feltwell

Based at St Mary’s Church in Feltwell. It is open Monday and Wednesday from 9am-11.30am, and Saturday 12.30pm to 2.30pm.

Shrublands Community Foodclub

Based at Shrublands Youth and Adult Centre, Magdalen Way, Gorleston. It is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10am-noon and Thursday 6-8pm.

Residents can sign up as a member by paying a £4 annual fee that gives them access to affordable products.

The Feed Social Supermarket 

Opening on Hall Road, Norwich, in May. There will be a shop offering affordable groceries with members offered heavily subsidised prices. These will be complemented by cooking classes and advice on how to budget for food.
Contact andrea@thefeed.org.uk if you can help or if you would like to learn more.

Nourishing Norfolk

Further details on Nourishing Norfolk Network call 01603 623958 or shinebrighter@norfolkfoundation.com

More information at norfolkfoundation.com.