The Scottish Pantry Network (TSPN) currently have 6 pantries in Glasgow either recently opened or in progress, a further pantry is in progress in Inverclyde and 2 more are in the initial development stages in Renfrewshire. We wanted to find out more about their work and spoke with Cllr Mandy Morgan (Chairperson) about the thinking behind the project and their aims and vision.
What are the factors that led you to start up the Scottish Pantry Network?
It is well documented that poverty and being unable to put food on the table is a key factor in poor physical and mental health and wellbeing, with the impact of COVID further increasing the pressure placed on people and communities and their health and wellbeing, as well as the traditional infrastructure that is designed to provide support and interventions.
Not being able to access even the basic foods impacts people in a variety of ways including; increasing the risk of chronic stress, placing pressure on family and peer relationships; affects the ability to make decisions; contributes to social isolation; and the ability to access and sustain learning and employment opportunities. In addition, personal and community resilience is affected which further exposes people and the infrastructure to the impact of short-term and long-term crisis such as COVID and economic downturns.
How does the Scottish Pantry Network address these issues?
The Scottish Pantry Network’s creative model and strengths-based approach is designed as an alternative to the Foodbank model by offering an engaging and tailored “shopping experience” and providing a dignified choice for both the individual and local community.
How is the Scottish Pantry Network different from Foodbanks?
Unlike Foodbanks or other pop style models of food distribution, a Pantry will open and function like a normal shop and will not operate limited and restricted hours; our agile and flexible model recognises that people and communities have other commitments that mean they need access to shopping at varying times including evening and weekends. In addition, and critically access to a Pantry is not based on need and does not require anyone to explain their circumstance; memberships are open to everyone in the community.
This approach differs from Foodbanks and is designed to be inclusive and not to differentiate as well as helping the Pantry to be a local food outlet and not somewhere you go for food support. To further ensure that the Pantries are integrated and embedded in local communities with dignity they will be designed around shopfronts that not only help with access but will increase footfall and membership.
You mention membership, how does that work?
Our model is based on a membership system whereby for a £2.50 membership, shoppers will get between £10 - £15 worth of quality food, in addition memberships are not limited which enables families to purchase multiple memberships further providing choice and flexible access to products.
Tell us how a pantry can engage and integrate with the local community?
To ensure that the Pantry extends its reach across communities and can be the catalyst for increasing community engagement, community transport, connectedness, and developing community wealth, they will be designed to act as a “hub” and a conduit for local services and provision.
The “hub” will not be limited to being a touchpoint for key services such as NHS and Money Advice but also employability, community events, youth engagement, creative arts and media; it is important that the” hub” is engaging, inclusive, informative and fun! And reflecting local need, demand, interest, aspiration, and inspiration, and all age groups.
In terms of your customers, who are the Scottish pantries aimed at and how can they benefit local communities?
Pantries are open to individuals from across communities and are designed to be a place to meet and socialise further reducing the risk of social isolation and community disconnection. The Pantry blueprint has key components which we recommend are embedded in the planning, design, and implementation phase, all of which should have community consultation as a golden thread:
- Providing training for volunteers in customer care, health and safety, food hygiene and providing experience in hospitality and retail, further assisting with progression into training and employment (links to training providers, and employers and colleges, volunteer organisations)
- Reducing carbon footprint and negative environmental impact. A large proportion of surplus food which is utilised and redistributed by Pantries would normally end up in Landfill sites
- Empowering communities through community engagement and active participation from planning and design through to implementation and growth
- Offers learning experiences including cooking, food preparation, “pop” and “street” foods
- Provides “free space” for individuals and groups to use further reducing isolation and increasing opportunities for creative engagement
- Attracting footfall to local business
- Work with local growers and suppliers
What is your vision for the Scottish Pantry Network?
We want to create a sustainable network of Pantries across Scotland providing a holistic and dignified approach to food insecurity using quality foods that will empower individuals and communities to help each other and themselves; and hubs that will provide holistic wrap around services to the whole community.
There are key elements to The Scottish Pantry Network’s mission:
- The prevention of poverty and the relief of financial hardship by providing food security to those who need it most
- The advancement of community development by acting on behalf of the network of Pantries
- Influencing strategies and priorities by lobbying government, providing a regulatory function, and sharing best practice across the Network
- Advancement of environmental protection by reducing food waste locally and nationally
- Advancement of learning by increasing access to skills, training, and employment opportunities
- Advancement of health by improving health and wellbeing outcomes
- Relief for those in need by providing access to key support including money advice, credit unions, housing, health, employment, and training
Do you see a role for Community Councils to work together with the Scottish Pantry Network?
Community councils are the most local tier of elected representation. They are comprised of people who live in the community and therefore have a vested interest and care about our communities. As such they play an important role in our local communities, as they know the community better than anyone.
The community councils and the Scottish pantry network can work together to get the word out about the local pantries. Its important that the community know about the pantry and model and how to access it and the community council part of connecting local residents in.
It would also be good to work with the community councils on the needs of the area they service. For instance TSPN is currently working with community transport to provide a free bus service to Ruchazie Pantry and we are working on funding to serve other Pantries with transport. The views of the community on shaping these services would be welcome to ensure we are providing the service in the right areas and a the right time.
Finally, can you sum up the ethos of what the Scottish Pantry Network stands for?
We believe that food insecurity should be managed with dignity. All services, including foods we offer should be of a high quality. We remain true to our core vision and challenge for what we feel is right. What we offer is for everyone in the community.
Community councils wishing to find out more and get involved with the Scottish Pantry Network can get in touch in the following ways:
Tel: 07429 154402