Social enterprise The Feed, which won Small Business of the Year at the Norfolk Business Awards last week, has just launched a pay it forward Winter Food Campaign, to help people eat in the run up to Christmas. Folk Features goes along to the supermarket to find out more
The Feed’s Social Supermarket in Norwich has been providing food for people in Norwich struggling to afford it, since July. At the outset, the social enterprise which sets out to prevent poverty, hunger and homelessness to homelessness in Norwich, expected 300 people to make use of it within the first year. Four months in, five times that number (1500) have signed up for the free membership, shopping for more than 3,500 people, much more than anticipated but reflecting the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
The Social Supermarket in Hall Road helps people who are struggling to afford food, and provides free fresh fruit and vegetables, bakery products and toiletries. The Feed doesn’t want anyone to go without these essentials and Hub Manager Andrea Auburn makes the point that there are times when members come in and can only shop for the free stuff. Often, people visiting the store have no money at all.
‘I think we knew it was going to be difficult with the cost-of-living crisis,’ she says. ‘It’s shocking but at the same time people are really resilient. It’s not a place to feel pity – it’s about empowering people. We all want to choose what we want to eat.’
All the other products in the supermarket are at low prices and include fresh, chilled, and frozen food and drinks; cleaning products; tins and packets – all the regular products you would expect in a local corner shop but at much lower prices.
The fridge in the corner reprises the Community Fridge which played a big role at the Prince of Wales Road café at the start of the pandemic. On the bottom shelf, shoppers might find a crate of tomatoes, courtesy of a local allotment holder.
In fact, donations can come from individuals and organisations – recent donations have included apples from Blickling Hall volunteers, tea from Breakwater IT; period products from Hey Girls, based in Diss, and herbs from Green Cuisine. Andrea says: ‘We have a variety of suppliers, from wholesalers to allotment holders bringing in produce here and there.’
At the back of the shop, there is a very well-stocked stock room, which is just as well, because the shelves at the front need refilling constantly. Andrea is supported by an assistant manager and a rotating team of 30 volunteers during the week. In that regard, she says: ‘We are really well supported.’
The Feed helps people who are facing one or more barriers to employment – such as poor mental health, substance misuse, a history of offending and learning difficulties. Support services are also regularly available on the Hall Road site with issues such as debt management, getting back into work and information about training and further education. The Norfolk Community Law Service regularly provides free legal advice, as does Shelter, for advice on housing.
In the run-up to Christmas, and all-too aware that some members only being able to shop for the free products on some days, the team at The Feed are keen to provide people with the chance to shop for whatever they need and are inviting people to contribute to a ‘pay it forward’ fund on JustGiving, providing credits for shopping which these people can use.
Based on the low prices, a £10 donation, for example, to the Winter Food Campaign would provide a week’s shopping for a single person. The team at The Feed are keen to say that this isn’t about a Christmas treat, it’s about making sure people have food – as opposed to not.
Featured image of The Feed’s Hub Manager Angela Auburn at the Social Supermarket in Hall Road, Norwich