It has now been two months since the launch of The Community Grocery in Wythenshawe.
And as we head into the festive season at full speed, after what has been an undoubtedly turbulent year due to ongoing restrictions amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the services provided by this charity-led initiative could not be more vital.
At a time when the stigma around the use of food banks seems to be almost as high as the rates of unemployment and the level of economic struggle, The Community Grocery is here to help.
Its mission is simple, but profound.
The Community Grocery exists to bridge the gap between supermarkets and food banks to allow people left in a vulnerable position as a result of the pandemic to have independence and dignity.
And it’s really taken off.
The shop – which is part of The Message Trust’s site in Sharston – has been overwhelmed by the response since opening, and during the first couple of months alone has had over 750 families sign up to use the grocery system each week.
Of these members, over 100 register for debt relief courses and over 200 request mental health support.
If all of that wasn’t amazing enough as it is, The Community Grocery’s impact has also extended to protecting the environment, by managing to save a whopping 84 tonnes of surplus food that would have otherwise gone to landfill.
But just how did this groundbreaking initiative start though?
Well, it turns out The Community Grocery is just one cog in the wheel of the lifesaving work that The Message Trust has been carrying out this past year.
With the pandemic sadly pushing families closer to the poverty line than ever before, what began as a move by The Message Trust to re-purpose its community kitchens to feed the most vulnerable members of the community while the hospitality industry was temporarily closed back in April, saw The Mess Cafe – the community cafe which gives training and employment to ex-offenders, or those at risk of offending – become a hub for preparing and providing healthy meals to children missing out on their free school lunches, with a total of 60,000 meals sent out to those who need them most.
The support didn’t stop there either.
After realising that the need for such services was only increasing, a more sustainable and long-term option was brought about, and so, The Community Grocery was born.
The Community Grocery is passionate about individuals maintaining agency and continuing to support the local community beyond their primary needs.
A shopper who signs up for a membership not only has access to The Community Grocery, but can also make the most of a range of wider support services, including debt relief, mental health services, job clubs, and cooking and life skills classes, as well as exploring a selection of Christianity courses provided by The Message Trust.
And now, with a growing community of families signed up and a capacity of 1000 members, The Community Grocery is reaching out and encouraging those who live locally and may have recently lost their job, are entitled to the free school meals programme, or are simply just struggling, to access the support.
You can pop by the store anytime during opening hours – 9:30am – 4:30pm – and the team will walk you through your first £3 shop.
Looking ahead to the future, The Community Grocery has now managed to successfully secure funding to expand its offering across the North West region and is committed to launching another four groceries around Greater Manchester over the next four months.
The Community Grocery team is “so pleased” to be able to further serve local people in partnership with churches in the community to provide more available space.
And this also means there will be the opportunity for members to access the benefits of The Community Grocery across multiple locations over the next few months, so keep your eyes peeled and be sure to stay up to date on both Facebook and Instagram.
You can also find more information via The Community Grocery website here.
The Community Grocery, Message Enterprise Centre, Harper Road, Sharston, Manchester, M22 4RG.