The Purple Pantry in Moor Nook welcomed some very special customers earlier this week, as it celebrated its first birthday. Cream teas and commemorative mugs were on hand for the Mayor, partner organisations and customers who attended the affordable food outlet to do their weekly shop.
We set up the food shopping membership scheme as a seven-week pilot in late 2019 to help households struggling to afford grocery in the run up to Christmas.
The trial proved so successful that in July the following year, the Purple Pantry was officially opened in the old housing offices on Langden Drive, Moor Nook. It now has 854 members and opens five days a week with occasional weekend opening for special events like Halloween.
Julie Lee, Head of Income at CGA said:
“It had become clear that people frequently struggled to afford their weekly shop or had to stick to buying a limited range or ‘value’ products. So, we stepped up and launched our own affordable food outlet. It’s stocked with excellent quality food including tins, fresh, chilled and frozen goods as well as sweet treats. Membership is open to all Community Gateway customers and people who live in the Moor Nook area.”
Throughout the challenges of last year, it became a lifeline to many and was supplemented during lockdown with a “Mobile Pantry” delivering food hampers for a small charge to customers who were isolating or shielding. Some customers said the mobile service meant they were able to eat fresh fruit for the first time in weeks or go to bed without feeling hungry.
Earlier this year, Purple Pantry staff were thrilled to receive a Coronavirus City Hero Award from the outgoing Mayor for its work supporting communities across the city.
Everything on the Pantry shelves is fresh surplus food from suppliers like Morrisons and in particular James Hall & Co (Spar UK) who supply most of the food.
In the last 12 months, over 7,200 people have visited the Pantry, and it has provided food to more than 11,500 adults and 7,000 children.
Mayor Councillor Javed Iqbal who joined in the festivities congratulated everyone involved. He said:
“We need places like this; sadly it’s an essential service to many who are unemployed or on low incomes. What I’ve heard about here and what shines through is ‘respect’ – respect for all customers who come to browse and choose products from the shop.”
Local customer Jacqui loves the Pantry and goes with her friend Yvonne weekly, if not more frequently. She said:
“I can’t praise it enough. I can’t work, as I am disabled and it makes a big difference when you’re on a low income like me.”
As well as offering a wide choice of food, the Pantry acts as a focal point on the estate, bringing local people together. It’s that sense of community that attracted major supplier James Hall & Co who deliver any excess food from their warehouses, sometimes daily.
Tom Murphy, Marketing Manager from James Hall & Co explained:
“We’ve a long heritage in Preston – our depot is here and we have lots of history here. For us, all we do is about community and the Purple Pantry and Community Gateway embody that ethos which is why we are so glad to help out.”
Jeff Green, General Manager of FareShare in Preston echoed Tom’s words:
“Having somewhere like this right at the heart of the community means not only can people get access to high quality, affordable food, but we can use it to engage with people in lots of ways, providing support with housing, relationship advice, job search, finance, you name it! It’s been a marvellous day and I have been very impressed with all the wrap-around care that Gateway staff have offered since the Purple Pantry first opened.”
The Purple Pantry is open from 1pm - 4pm Monday, Thursday and Friday and 10am - 4pm Tuesday and Wednesday, at Moor Nook Community Office, Langden Drive, Preston PR2 6HT. For more details click here or contact the Tenancy Support team on 0800 953 0213.