Mayor of Preston Javed Iqbal visited Moor Nook’s Purple Pantry food outlet this week to celebrate its first birthday.Advertisement
On Tuesday 20 July, cream teas and commemorative mugs were on hand for the mayor, partner organisations and customers who attend the affordable food outlet to do their weekly shop.
Community Gateway Association (CGA), the largest social housing landlord in Preston, set up the shopping membership scheme as a seven-week pilot in late 2019 to help households struggling to afford groceries in the run-up to Christmas.
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The trial proved successful, so in July the following year, the Purple Pantry officially opened in the old housing offices on Langden Drive, Moor Nook. It now has 854 members and is open five days a week, with occasional weekend openings 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.
“We stepped up and launched our affordable food outlet. It is stocked with top-notch food, including tins, fresh, chilled and frozen goods, as well as sweet treats. Membership is open to all Community Gateway customers and local people.”
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During the pandemic, it became a lifeline to many, so it was supplemented during lockdown with a ‘Mobile Pantry’, delivering food hampers for a small charge to customers who were isolating or shielding.
Customers said the mobile service meant they were able to eat fresh fruit for the first time in weeks, and some said they did not have to go to bed 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.
The pantry offers fresh surplus food from suppliers like Morrisons and James Hall and Co (Spar UK), who supply most of the food.
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Mayor Councillor Javed Iqbal 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. It’s our Eid festival today, so I should have been celebrating with family, but this is so important. I wanted to see for myself all the good work that goes on.”
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.
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Local customer Jacqui loves the pantry and goes with her friend Yvonne weekly.
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 attracted major suppliers James Hall and Co, who deliver any excess food from their warehouses, sometimes daily.
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Tom Murphy, Marketing Manager from James Hall and Co, said: “We’ve got 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, said having somewhere at the heart of the community means people can get access to high quality, affordable food.
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He said: “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 today, 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 to 4pm, Monday to Friday, at Moor Nook Community Office, Langden Drive, Preston, PR2 6HT.
For more information, visit – https://www.communitygateway.co.uk/
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