The Community Grocery, part of The Message Trust’s site in Sharston, opened just two months ago – but they have been overwhelmed by the local response.
With the pandemic pushing families closer to the poverty line, it began with The Message re-purposing their kitchens whilst hospitality was closed back in April.
The community cafe The Mess Cafe, which gives training and employment to ex-offenders or those at risk of offending, became a kitchen preparing healthy meals for children missing out on their free school lunches.
During the first lockdown, they delivered over 60,000 meals and food parcels to homes and families across Wythenshawe who would have struggled to put food on the table without a bit of extra help.
This included over 22,000 cooked meals for families, and 41,000 packed lunches for families with children.
But it didn’t stop there, says Community Grocery’s Joy Moore.
“Realising that the need was only increasing, we sought a sustainable option – enter the Community Grocery,” explains Joy.
The aim is to bridge the gap between supermarket and food bank, allowing people left in a vulnerable position by the pandemic to have independence and dignity.
You sign up for a £5 to become an annual member of the Message Community Grocery, giving you access to two weekly shops for £3 each.
Suppliers provide the Message Community Grocery with redistributed surplus food, including fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as packaged and canned goods.
Members can come and shop for their whole family at the grocery giving them access to food for less and helping us all reduce food waste.
“We are passionate about individuals maintaining agency and continuing to supporting the local community beyond their primary needs.”
Membership also allows access to wider support, including debt relief, mental health services, job clubs, cooking and life skills classes.
“In our first couple of months we’ve had over 750 families sign up to use the grocery each week,” says Joy.
“Of these members, we’ve had over 100 register for debt relief courses and over 200 request mental health support.
“We’ve also had an impact in protecting our environment by saving 84 tonnes of surplus food that would have otherwise gone to landfill.”
With 750 families signed up and a capacity of 1000 members, if you live locally and have recently lost your job, benefit from free school meals programme or just struggling right now Community Grocery would love to welcome you as a member, says Joy.
“Pop by the grocery anytime whilst we are open and our team with walk you through your first £3 shop.”
Over Christmas, the shop is helping further by giving out a child’s toy as part of the Christmas shop on 7th December for two weeks.
“We are also committing to delivering 5,000 hampers around homes in Wythenshawe as part of our campaign Love Where U Live on 22nd December, and on 20th December we will be offering a drive-in movie night for the community to attend,” says Joy.
The Community Grocery has plans for more branches across the region, too.
“Looking to the future we have secured funding to expand across the North West and we are committed to launching another four groceries around greater Manchester in the next four months,” says Joy.
They are currently partnering with four churches to develop more shops in Salford, Bolton, Wigan and Sheffield.
Find out more here.