New community shop aims to help vulnerable people in South Tyneside while giving them 'dignity'

A South Tyneside charity has revealed plans to set up a ‘community one-stop shop’ as part of a drive to support those experiencing food poverty.

By Chris Binding
Friday, 11th February 2022, 5:48 pm
Updated Monday, 14th February 2022, 8:02 am
Brian Thomas
Brian Thomas

Hospitality and Hope, which was founded in 2002 , works locally supporting homeless and vulnerable people through its food bank and wellbeing support.

With increases in the cost of living looming, charity leaders have revealed plans to trial a new model at a large premises in the Horsley Hill ward.

This includes people accessing food support in a shop environment and topping up their weekly shop with essential items at a reduced cost.

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The scheme, which is based on the national ‘your community pantry’ model, aims to ensure a more sustainable offer for those experiencing food insecurity, from individuals to working families.

In addition, it aims to tackle social isolation, improve financial wellbeing and create a “anchor of social capital in the community.”

Details of the new community shop were revealed in an update to South Tyneside Council’s East Shields and Whitburn Community Area Forum on Thursday, February 10, 2022.

Brian Thomas, chief executive officer of Hospitality and Hope, said the charity was in the process of finalising a lease with the borough council for a shop space.

Once the keys are handed over, he explained, the charity would begin community engagement with a view of opening the community shop by April 2022.

The charity boss told the meeting: “The aspiration that I have as a chief executive of Hospitality and Hope, shared by my board, is that we have a number of these community shops operating across South Tyneside and we won’t need a food bank.

“That would be our long-term success, that the people who come to the food bank will be able to access community shops and do it with more dignity and more sustainability than short-term crisis intervention.

“It just feels wrong to me that we have a strategy with the food bank where we wait for people to fall into crisis before we help them.

“We want to take a much more preventative approach with those in our community who need a helping hand and we’re on a journey with that.”

Councillors heard that the model would see people contribute a small subscription fee before self-selecting food items to the value of £15 to £20.

Charity leaders aim to help around 100-140 people per week from the Horsley Hill site, but admitted this would be “built up slowly.”

Products and food for the shop would also be sourced through donations from the public and businesses, user membership and external funding sources, with an ambition of distributing more than 47 tonnes of food per year.

Councillor Tracey Dixon, council leader and ward member for Whitburn and Marsden, praised the “absolutely phenomenal” work of the charity during the Covid-19 pandemic and welcomed the new proposals.

Councillor Ruth Berkley, ward councillor for Horsley Hill, added the model would be a “hugely important development” for South Tyneside residents.

“I’m really excited about the development that you’re putting in place in Horsley Hill and I’m very sad that in this day and age we need to resort to these issues,” Cllr Berkley said.

“It horrifies me that we have people who are really struggling and will increasingly struggle in the coming year, I think we will see more and more of a demand requirement in our own communities.

“This development I think, particularly around the way it’s going to be operated, is about giving people dignity and I think that is so important for everybody across the age profile.

“It’s hugely distressing for individuals to have to acknowledge that they cannot survive, especially if they’re in work, but also for the dignity of the elderly.

“Especially when you see so much increase in cost of living and fuel costs that are going to come in, this year is going to be really critical.”

For more information on Hospitality and Hope, visit the charity’s website here: www.hospitalityandhope.org.uk

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