A look inside the Storehouse Pantry

Every Thursday at 1.30pm, the Storehouse Pantry at Johnson Fold opens its doors to the local community. All morning, volunteers have been busy stocking shelves with fresh produce donated from supermarkets, shops and schools.

For a membership fee of £2.50 a week, customers can fill their shopping baskets with fruit and vegetables, meat, tinned foods and household essentials.

It sounds like a food bank but it isn’t. The pantry has been set up to help anyone on a tight budget, even if they’re not eligible for food bank vouchers. And, during their visit, tenants can use a range of other services based at the pantry. Advice on managing money, healthy eating and getting into work are just some of the support services available.

There’s a distinctly different vibe going on here too. The pantry is a friendly, welcoming hub where neighbours can meet for a chat over a cup of tea.

A community-run service

Lisa Bradley, community development officer, says the pantry has become an important part of community life. “The pantry is a perfect example of a service that’s run by the local community for the community. Since opening its doors in November 2015, the pantry has provided food to hundreds of families. But, more than that, it’s become a place where residents can come together to talk about their lives.

“We focus on creating a relaxed atmosphere, where people don’t feel stigmatised, and where they feel comfortable enough to ask for help with other problems such as debt, managing their home, relationship problems and mental health. The pantry also runs cooking sessions where adults and children can try out new recipes.”

Unsung heroes

The pantry’s success is down to the hard-working staff and volunteers from each of the partner organisations who set it up – Urban Outreach (a local charity), St Peter’s Parish and Bolton at Home – as well as local tenants.

“Urban Outreach has been instrumental in securing commitments from local retailers, big and small,” says Lisa. “We’ve just started working with Marks & Spencer, which is pretty exciting as it’s really extended the choice of foods we have available – we’ve had prawn rings on the shelves recently.

“We look for healthy foods and always make sure there’s a good selection of fruit and vegetables on offer, which are often overlooked by families trying to make their money go further.”

Lisa goes on to praise the volunteers: “We have around 30 volunteers who run the pantry and greet visitors each week. Most of them are Bolton at Home tenants and, while we make sure they have the relevant training and support to do the job, in return they tell us about the satisfaction they get from helping other people. They’re truly dedicated to the project and, without them, we wouldn’t be able to offer the service.”

The Johnson Fold Storehouse Pantry is based at The Hope Centre, St Andrew’s Church, Tattersall Avenue, and is open every Thursday 1.30-3.30pm.

Another pantry is situated in our New Bury UCAN Centre at 53-55 George Street, Farnworth, and is open every Thursday, 10am-12pm.

To find out more about joining a Storehouse Pantry, or to become a volunteer working in one, contact Lisa Bradley on 01204 329568 or at lisa.bradley@boltonathome.org.uk

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