The Feed’s Social Supermarket in Norwich is one today! New manager, Kelsey Lund and Community Engagement Lead, M-C explain how it has become so much more than a low-cost food provider
Since opening on Hall Road in Norwich on July 7, 2022, The Feed’s Social Supermarket has been providing affordable groceries to people affected by the cost-of-living crisis. Originally, the team expected to be helping a few hundred families at this stage, but nowadays there are around 5,000 people using the supermarket – including families with young children, pensioners and people in full-time jobs.
But the Social Supermarket has become much more than a place where people can pick up fresh fruit for free, or frozen food at a much lower price than most other stores. There is also a Community Café within the same premises, where they run a range of events and activities, such as Bounce & Rhyme on a Monday morning.
And there are also advice sessions. This means members can get advice and support in one place from expert organisations like Citizen’s Advice, Shelter, Your Own Place, Age UK, Adult Education and Norfolk Community Law Service.
Kelsey Lund is the new Manager at the Social Supermarket – a big change from her previous role at House of Fraser in Norwich. She says: ‘I love it, I feel like it’s home – I feel like I was always meant to be here.
‘I feel like it’s really important to listen to people, so I spend a lot of my time chatting to people – which is very different to other manager roles, I think.’
Initially, hearing all the personal stories from members was hard for Kelsey to listen to but, as she says: ‘Being able to turn things around and make people happy is wonderful, really.
‘Just yesterday there was a lady who came in who was in tears – really overwhelmed. She’d set herself three goals for the day: to get out to the shop, do some washing and do something fun and she came to me and said, “I’ve done two out of three” and I said “well, let’s do the third” – so I got the felting kit out and she sat in the middle of the room and did that. By the end of the day, she was chatting to all the other members, showing them what she’d done.’
A recent members’ survey revealed that: 15% speak English as a second language; In 46% of households there is at least one person with a disability; 38% never or rarely feel cheerful and in good spirits; and 46% don’t feel their lives are often filled with things that interest them. The weekly sessions are a response to member feedback.
Kelsey makes the point: ‘It’s all about ‘talking to people, finding out what they want from us. You just have to respond to what comes.
‘Just because people are struggling financially doesn’t mean they should be without joy in their life. We can give them food and vouchers and we can direct them to other agencies, but I’d rather focus on making people feel good when they are here. I’ve seen a lot of successes.’
M-C is the Community Engagement Lead. She explains that being able to offer a private space on site means that members, who are struggling to afford food, are able to talk through anything confidential if needed.
She says domestic abuse comes up a lot during these conversations. ‘Being able to open up about things in a space that is really safe is really important. People feel comfortable enough to talk about the issues they are facing. I can make referrals to lots of organisations – I’ve got a spreadsheet with more than 100 organisations on it.
Alternatively, people might be referred to The Feed’s Bloom project, for example, a 12-week programme for women run by women, improving wellbeing and providing new skills.
M-C adds: ‘We identified a gap – people were coming in asking for food vouchers but were not really looking at what brought them to that situation in the first place. It’s about empowering people.’
As the Social Supermarket celebrates its first birthday, The Feed’s CEO, Lucy Parish, says: ‘Our Hall Road supermarket and community café has transformed The Feed, meaning we now reach thousands of people in Norwich with our work. This scale demonstrates the level of need in our city for basics like food, advice and a community space to make connections. We’ll strive to continue our growth, being informed by what the community tells us, and in partnership with other relevant organisations.’
The Feed’s Social Supermarket is based at 65 Hall Road, Norwich, NR1 3HL. The Community Café at the Social Supermarket offers members homemade food for under £1.50, free WiFi access, washing machine use for 50p, books to share, puzzles to do and games to play. Bounce & Rhyme takes place on a Monday at 9.30am; Craft takes place on a Tuesday at 10am; Wellbeing Wednesdays are from 10am-12 noon; the first Tuesday of every month, 11am-12.30pm, is a Stay & Play with MAP; every other Tuesday is a Shelter drop-in; and every other Wednesday is a Citizens Advice drop-in (booking advised).