Every year in the UK, we chuck out enough food to fill the Royal Albert Hall four times over. Yet at the same time, 8 million people are struggling to put food on the table. We’ve got to amplify what Community Shop are doing. I honestly think that it is projects like these, if they could be scaled up, that are the solutions we need within our country.
Jamie Oliver - Chef & Broadcaster
It’s a simple story but it happens every single day
We opened the Grimsby store. Honoured guests, media and the smell of fresh paint, just as it should be. Gemma, our second customer, waited anxiously as her shopping was scanned through the till. Then the moment of truth when the numbers staring back at you tell you if you will survive from this week to next.
The number said £12.64.
Gemma broke down and sobbed. A confused checkout operator asked what to do, the answer was simple, to close the till and go and give her a hug. You see, we are not any old ordinary shop. Away from the noise the story unfolded and it was the story of thousands of people each day. The sheer unlocking of relief when you realise you can feed the kids and you don’t need to wake each morning with that knot in your stomach. We always knew it was true but Gemma reminded us that day that food is the foundation for every step of the amazing journey our members take every day.
The Cook Club team sparkle with smiles.
Barbara and Maureen are from the Stroke Club, so we adapted things in the kitchen for them to use and if they needed to sit down that was also made possible for them.
Steve has Cerebral Palsy which affects his memory and sometimes his balance.
Today Steve cooked scotch eggs.
Together we have worked out a way of remembering certain tasks, making things and understanding things around the kitchen. We have plenty of chats. Steve says he loves working in the kitchen and learning new skills, he says his confidence has grown and now he can help others. Steve is going to move onto Melting Pot, or Community Feast this year so that he can bring in some of his childhood food memories to share with other members. We received a lovely card from them all to say thank you for the time we took with them.
Our Food Mentor says, “I feel truly shocked and pleased I have made people so happy with such small actions.”
We believe in the power of small actions.
It didn’t feel like a season to be jolly...
Jenny moved to the area just before Christmas. She had ten pounds a week, it didn’t go very far. She had a kettle and a sofa and then the money ran out… with three weeks until any hope of getting any money. Then she met the Lead Mentor from Community Shop, Debbie. She arrived at Community Shop Goldthorpe the next morning - miserable, cold and with that sinking feeling she had nowhere to turn.
She was wrong.
The Community Leadership Team kicked into action and found her some furniture - but that was just the start. Jenny signed up for Kick Start, Money Matters, Work Works and Cook Club, in fact anything she could - all part of the personal development pathway - The Success Plan. The next week Debbie told Jenny about some jobs in the local area. Filled with anticipation she made her first contact for an interview the following day. “I was buzzing as I came back to tell everyone that I had got a job, to start following Monday, but then panic hit again as I realised I couldn’t afford new work clothes and safety footwear. The Community Leaders rallied round and sorted me out quickly. I introduced my daughter to Debbie, who then did the short Business Insight course at Community Shop. Debbie helped her to look for business cards and my daughter is now a mobile hair dresser. I don’t think anyone realises how much this has meant to me. I am so grateful to Community Shop.”
People are given and they give back. We believe that is the secret of building strong communities.
Sometimes it starts with the feeling that you are safe and someone is listening to your story.
Tracy and Caroline joined us about a year ago, both had been very successful with their careers in the past and as friends had now found themselves redundant. This affected them both, knocking their confidence, Tracy decided to start up a smoothie making business, but Caroline was struggling with depression and couldn’t think of what she could do. She got involved in The Success Plan and then, gently at first, got involved in the Community Leadership Programme. This team of passionate change-makers build skills and confidence to “be the change” they want to see in their community.
Tracy said “Without the support of Community Shop I would never have imagined being confident enough to go and find out everything I needed to know, to deliver this service and help those in the community around me”.
Caroline said “The inspiration I got from the staff and other members in the groups, helped me realise I still had lots more to give, so I went out and found a way to do it”.
Thank you to everyone at Community Shop for believing in us
It was very dark, food brought a glimmer of light, but I wanted more...
“When I was made redundant from my last job I doubted I would be able to find a decent job again. As a bloke in my mid-fifties, I knew that my CV would end up on the slush pile of every prospective employer, once they’d worked out the numbers. Sure enough, although I’d had a good career as a journalist, it proved impossible to find work in that area again and, as a result, my confidence fell rapidly. Luckily for me, Community Shop Lambeth opened its doors and I received a very warm welcome. I felt at home. I got involved in the Success Plan and progressed onto the Community Leadership Programme.
Feeling more confident, I branched out and started volunteering for other organisations, including a charity for vulnerable adults, assisting with letter writing and general support. Gradually I found that my skills might no longer be wanted by media organisations, but they were very much in demand in other sectors. After all, I could write a pretty good letter, turn an average CV into an excellent one, and, after a career interviewing rock stars and celebrities, I wasn’t afraid to talk to anyone on the phone. Finally, I started applying for jobs again, this time in the charity sector. Now with so much voluntary work added to my CV, my applications were beginning to stand out. I applied for three jobs in one week and received two interviews. By November I had a job and a new career working for a homeless charity. Frankly, I couldn’t believe it.”
Confucius was right, rising when we fall is our greatest glory.
A seed bursts into life, and with it grows hope.
A dis-used car park with crumbling tarmac used to store the refuse of a London suburb is not the most glorious start to a garden. Then again, at Community Shop we are used to looking beneath the surface of things. For a year we have improvised and planned and found ways around. Oil barrels and bee hives and raised beds have been lovingly gathered by people who believe we have the right to live in beautiful places and grow wonderful food. This year over four hundred members of the community have enjoyed our car park garden.
With Jamie Oliver and cooking stations from eight different nations, we created a feast for some of the most influential leaders of the food industry, hosted by our Community Leaders.
Grey tarmac and empty cola cans produce fresh food and host opulent feasts – if you look at them through the right eyes.
Often people come for the food but stay for so much more:
Quietly wandering around the store wondering how to make ends meet or sipping a cup of tea in the Community Kitchen to keep warm, is the story for so many people at the start of their journey.
Rebecca was different; she bought lots, baskets and baskets full. The staff were worried that she was buying for half of her street. It was a cold winter’s day and she was wearing flip flops and a thin jacket. The mentoring team grabbed some tea and cake and sat down with her for a chat.
Rebecca has two disabled children and is paid welfare support once a month. She had borrowed a chest freezer and was buying in her ‘good week’ to see her family through the month. Out of earshot of the beautifully dressed children she whispered, “That way I can save over £200 and perhaps, just perhaps, this year, I can buy myself a winter coat and some shoes.”
It is always worth listening. It is always worth remembering that money saved on shopping can purchase that most valuable commodity – dignity.