Community Shop, a ‘social supermarket’ which found success in Yorkshire, has launched in London, selling reduced price produce to people nearing food poverty. Selling edible food that high street retailers would have disposed of, the store offers up to 70% off top brands and supermarket prices such as Morrisons, Nestle, Marks & Spencer and Innocent to ‘members only’ customers.
Membership is available to locals in receipt of income and welfare support, and further to discounted surplus food and drink. Community Shop also provides programmes including CV writing, cooking and debt advice.
Backed by London mayor Boris Johnson, the first London Community Shop is situated in West Norwood, South London. Tobacco and alcohol are not for sale, and the shop stays open to members for only a few months.
Community Shop plans to open a further 20 stores in the UK after a successful pilot opening in South Yorkshire and is a subsidiary of Company Shop Group, a redistributor of surplus food and drink produce.
Roughly 10% of food which is fit for human consumption is rejected from supplier stock due to mislabelled tags and damaged packaging. An estimated 3.5m tonnes of food and drink produce is said to be wasted in Britain every year before it has been purchased and stocked in supermarket shelves. This adds to recent statistics which expect that the UK will waste up to £64m worth of food once it has been purchased, aided by the disposal of excess Christmas food during the festive season.
Founder of environmental organisation Feedback, Tristram Stuart, has discussed sharing the views of Community Shop by seeing “the huge amounts of food wasted every single day in Britain – before it even reaches people’s shopping baskets.” Stuart continued; “We must all do more if we are to change our attitude to wasting food, and the pioneering Community Shop project is leading by example by tackling the problem of surplus food by giving it social purpose.”
John Marren, the chairman of Company Shop Group, said: “Not only do we offer high-quality, low-cost food to people experiencing tough times, but we provide them with the chance to take up support services because they are motivated to do better.”
The Community Shop website claims that the project is “not about crisis support” or “for independent shoppers on a tight budget”, but a membership programme to help and support people “on the cusp of food poverty”. Members of Community Shop are enrolled onto a ‘Success Plan’ with access to mentors. Over six million people, including those in households where somebody has a job, are living in poverty, according to figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
All produce within the Community Shop is edible and within its ‘best before’ date, and the design of the store is said to mimic that of a regular supermarket. Director of Social Affairs at Community Shop, Sarah Dunwell, explained, “we wanted the shop to feel like the sort of convenience store that anyone would be happy to shop in. The worst thing for us was for it to feel like charity.”