Below the breadline: Lambeth ‘social supermarket’ tackles family food poverty with baskets of bargains

As the furore over high street supermarkets’ waste food grows, a Lambeth ‘social supermarket’ has been a quiet success, providing families with discounted groceries.

Since it opened in December, Community Shop has helped lift local people out of poverty by giving members access to low-cost food and professional counselling.

The West Norwood store sells surplus food from retailers and manufacturers to the area’s most deprived residents at a heavily discounted price.

Thanks to the project’s success, Community Shop is set launch a national expansion programme, with plans to open 20 more stores both in and out of London.

Clara Widdison, London area manager, said: “The response from the communities we are part of has been fantastic.

“Everyone from members, to local businesses and food manufacturers, to charities and services have recognised the huge impact that Community Shops are having in their area and the difference that we’re enabling people to make in their lives.”

By fighting food poverty with food waste, the enterprise is bridging the gap between the 12 million tonnes of food wasted every year and the millions of people living below the breadline in the UK

This model has proved to be a success, with the West Norwood store already helping a number of members climb out of poverty and find stable employment.

One of their members who joined in December has now found employment in a health and leisure centre thanks to the Success Sessions programme, which gave her the confidence and support she needed to get the job.

When members join Community Shop they enrol on the success plan – a personalised development programme consisting of four small group sessions that encourages participants to make positive change in their lives.

Ms Widdison said at first people were convinced there must be a ‘catch’ attached to Community Shop, but they changed their minds after they witnessed their neighbours and friends reap the rewards.

Boris Johnson has also lent his support to the project, announcing £300,000 of funding for new social supermarkets across the capital.

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