Food club in Northampton 'is a lifesaver' for those struggling to make ends meet

Georgie-Star, Marcus, Donna and Isabella-Frances access Hope Foodclub every week.
Georgie-Star, Marcus, Donna and Isabella-Frances access Hope Foodclub every week.

A family who access a so-called social supermarket in Northampton say their community needs help with food poverty now more than ever.

Hope Food Club - a Hope Centre charity - gives people with low incomes and on benefits a chance to buy essential food items at a fraction of the cost so that families can free up their earnings for other bills and parts of their lives.

Picture l-r: James Sheppard helps to run the social supermarket with chief executive of the Hope Centre Robin Burgess.

Picture l-r: James Sheppard helps to run the social supermarket with chief executive of the Hope Centre Robin Burgess.

Donna and Marcus Lincoln of Lings signed up to the £2 monthly membership scheme at Hope Food Club after hearing about it at their children's school.

At first, the pair were reluctant to go along to purchase groceries and toiletries for their family-of-six but now they could not feel more relieved that they did.

Marcus, who 10 years ago worked as a chef before being diagnosed with fibromyalgia and Scheuermann's disease and can no longer work, said the club is now a lifeline for his family.

"There's more poverty now than there was 10 years ago and we are struggling," he said.

"Many of times over the past five years when you switch over from one benefit to another there's a massive gap and they give you no room to survive.

"The club is a lifesaver to this community."

The food boxes are made up of essentials, with each crate containing up to 35 items of food including tinned produce, dry pasta, sauces, teabags, cereals and toilet roll.

Donna, whose children are 16, 11, seven and six years old, added that sometimes the couple miss meals just to put food on the table for their children.

"As a family with four children we have had quite a lot of difficulties over benefits.

"My husband is disabled and we rely on food banks ourselves to feed the children.

"We only eat once a day... if that."

But Hope Food Club is not a food bank as it can be accessed more than a handful of times a year.

"With food banks you feel embarrassed.

"I feel that I'm taking it from people who need it more than I do.

"If benefits had not been cut over the past five years we would not be in this position," Donna added.

The social supermarket scheme allows residents to purchase food worth up to £45 a month for a subsidised rate of £15 and they will be handed free giveaways – including sanitary protection to tackle period poverty week-in-week-out.

The scheme works as a co-operative and the plan is that Hope Food Club will ultimately be controlled by the people who use the service.

Aside from people who access the service in the town centre, Northampton's Eastern District is most in need of the food club following soaring rent, fuel and council tax prices, the Hope Centre says.

Since the scheme started in Blackthorn in February this year over 114 people have signed up. Now Hope Food Club has moved into five other locations around Northampton.

James Sheppard who operates the food club said: "I think the food club is important because not only does it act as an additional safety net for those in food poverty, but also is able to give continual assistance, unlike food banks due to the limit to the number of times an individual or family can access it (five or six times, dependent upon the charity in question).

Also, as our food club operates pop-up shops in different communities around Northampton, we are not constrained by the static nature of food banks and can assist people that would not have the capability, due to mobility issues or poverty, to travel to those food banks.

"Another side effect of operating the pop-up shops in community centres is that they act as a hub for the local community and do bring residents together, either socially or due to their common aspects of food poverty. Not only do the residents help each other, but they end up promoting the food club to their neighbours or people in need."

For those wanting to donate to Hope Food Club the charities' warehouse can be found at unit H4/A, KG Business Centre, Kingsfield Way, Northampton, NN5 7QS.

Chron columnist Rachel McGrath, who is also part of the Northamptonshire Food Poverty Network, is trying to raise awareness this week of soaring hunger in Northampton.

Of food banks she said: "In 2010 there were 60 Trussell Trust Food banks and today in 2018 there are 2009 food banks and food aid providers in the UK.

"Austerity measures and the rise of food banks are no coincidence – they are directly related. This is alongside zero hour contracts, the minimum wage not reflecting the living wage and a welfare system which is not working.

"As part of National End Hunger UK week people can help in two key ways: firstly ask your MP to support the Food Insecurity Measurement Bill that will have its second reading in parliament on 28 October and secondly sign the petition for reforming the current universal credit system. Both can be found by going to www.endhungeruk.org."