It helps people in poverty stop going hungry but this little known shop is no foodbank.
No one is referred to the Hull Community Shop through another organisation and you are more likely to hear about it through word of mouth.
But this vital store which currently helps more than 100 people keep their heads above water receives surplus goods from some of the best known supermarkets.
Run by Environmental & Management Solutions (EMS), the shop also has its own allotment to supplement the fresh produce it offers.
EMS also offers cooking on a budget courses to help families create their own meals.
Jan Boyd, of EMS, helps run the store and Hull Live spoke to her about the scheme.
When and why was the Hull Community Shop set up?
The shop was launched in July 2016 with the aim of providing nutritious and affordable food for people and families who are suffering from food poverty.
Miss Boyd said: “EMS has been here for nine years and was set up to carry out neighbourhood management to ensure the services met the needs of the local community.
“We expanded into energy efficiency and then food growing and we have 70 allotments around the city.
“While growing food we realised there were a number of people out there making a stark choice between heating their homes and eating or feeding their children or themselves.”
How does the shop work?
Anyone can drop in to the store for fresh produce, such as bread, fruit and veg and they are asked to make a donation.
Miss Boyd said: “The fresh produce from the supermarkets is surplus food which means it is close to the sell-by date. That means we cannot sell it on so we simply ask people for a donation.
“We simply tell people to pay the amount which reflects what the food means to them. Some people will only donate 2p if that is all they can afford. All the money donated goes back into buying more food.”
For tinned and packaged goods and toiletries, there is a membership scheme.
Miss Boyd said: “Residents are asked to provide us with a list of income and expenditure so we can carry out a simple calculation to see if they qualify. If expenditure exceeds income then they are eligible.
“We initially thought the scheme would cater for around 20 people but we already have 103 members.”
For these goods, you can buy four items for a pound which is a huge saving on normal prices.
What is the deal with ready meals?
The shop also creates meals which can simply be popped into the microwave.
Miss Boyd said: “EMS has a chef who cooks the meals the night before at the Freedom Centre.
“We are funded by the Big Lottery for this scheme and they made it clear it was not to be part of a membership scheme. Therefore anyone can come in and pay £2 for the meals but you have to register. We have 70 people registered with this scheme.”
There are further pick up points at Marfleet Community Centre on Swanfield Road, the Acorn Children’s Centre on Nestor Grove and Craven Lea in Endeavour Crescent, all in east Hull.
Where does the food come from?
Food is obtained as surplus from local supermarkets including Sainsburys, Marks & Spencer in Kingswood, Asda, One-Stop in Marfleet and two Tesco Local stores. The shop also receives donations from churches and other community groups throughout east Hull.
Miss Boyd said: “The supermarkets have been superb and we carry out pick-ups 17 times a week.
“We will happily take fresh, chilled and frozen food. I don’t think we will refuse anything.
“Sometimes the packaging is damaged so they cannot put it on the selves but it is otherwise fine.
“If fresh food does go off before people pick it up then we use it for compost so nothing goes to waste.”
Who uses the shop?
The shop is used mainly by residents in the east Hull area although it is open to everyone.
Miss Boyd said: “The most desperate usually turn to us. We have a few who have suffered from the change to Universal Credit and others have been sanctioned which means their benefits have been stopped for a period of time.
“We have people who have mental health issues or recovering from addiction. We also have people come here who have just got out of prison.
“We are not here to judge people and we will not ask about why they have had to turn to us.
“While most of the users are from east Hull anyone can pop in and we are hoping to expand the service in the future across the city.”
Is demand increasing?
Foodbanks have reported an increase in the use of the service and it is a similar story for the Hull Community Shop.
Miss Boyd said: “We have been gradually seeing a demand in the service although it has peaks and troughs.
“But the situation is quite bleak. We always say this service should not be needed but sadly it is.
“We treat everybody the same and try to approach it with a sense of humour but there are times when people come in here in tears.
What do users say?
Julie, of Longhill, is a full time carer and admits the Hull Community Shop is a lifeline for her.
She said: “I have to look after my daughter as she has learning difficulties. As a carer I don’t get a lot of money.
“Now I can come in and get the ready meals and other food so it is something of a lifesaver. I am on carer benefits but these do not cover all the bills and food.
“The staff here are lovely and very friendly and the key thing is they don’t judge you.
“It is difficult to admit you need help but you cannot let pride get in the way. I am a stubborn person but I had to admit I needed more support and just had to swallow my pride.”
When is the shop open and where is it?
Members and non-members can access the shop Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm. It is situated near to the Freedom Centre in the Preston Road Village Centre off Preston Road in east Hull.
For more details email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01482 709810 / 710177.
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