The FoodSavers network aims to reduce dependency on foodbanks and free food provision, by combining sustainable low-cost food markets with easy access to a Credit Union, as part of the wider food support ecosystem.
The Trussell Trust report that their foodbanks distributed 1.2 million emergency food parcels to people in crisis between 1st April and 30th September 2020. It is estimated that a food parcel is given out every six minutes in the UK. Research from the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) shows that at the end of 2020 there were at least 946 independent food banks, with many other organisations also distributing emergency food during the pandemic.
At Inn Churches our own work increased fourfold during the pandemic, providing enough food for over 820,000 meals. From the outset however, our focus was on how we could move forward and support people, whilst taking the overwhelming pressure off foodbanks and increasing access to affordable food. How could we make sure that the post-COVID-19 legacy was not an over-dependence on free food? Food isn’t free, and somebody, somewhere, has to pay for it.
Whilst by no means a complete answer, FoodSavers is intended to be a bandage rather than a sticking plaster. It brings together the food pantry or social supermarket model, which is not a new concept, with The Credit Union, which has been around for many years. Members can save over £1,000 per year on their shopping bills, accessing fresh fruit and vegetables as well as store cupboard produce, whilst at the same time beginning to build a regular savings pattern with the Credit Union. Above and beyond this the aim is to provide further support through:
- volunteering opportunities
- advice and support
- member benefits, such as cookery classes
Our pilot study in Bradford has painted a compelling picture of guests accessing the FoodSavers service feeling empowered to feed their families, pleased at having the choice and flexibility to pick their own food items and grateful for the opportunity to contribute towards feeding themselves rather than relying on handouts. As one lady said,
I came in feeling suicidal and I am leaving feeling I have HOPE.
Our vision is to grow a network of FoodSavers projects where our members have dignity and self-respect, are empowered to make their own choices about good food have opportunities to learn new skills, and can start saving as a member in a recognised Credit Union Scheme. We’re working with a partner to develop a secure online infrastructure to support the network, and drawing together the learning from our pilot projects to support new projects wanting to join the network – we already have ten projects signed up to start soon.
Salad, Jacket Potato and cottage cheese for tomorrow. Thanks to you I can afford to eat healthily.Shine FoodSaver member
What a great idea for the community.Shine FoodSaver member
Just as Bradford has innovated with community food models to help people stretch their budgets further, this new FoodSavers model will build longer-term financial resilience.Andrew Forsey, National Director, Feeding Britain
This is one of the most interesting and humane things to come across my desk in a long time.Robert Kelly, CEO, ABCUL (Association of British Credit Unions Limited)
If you’re interested in finding out more or joining the FoodSavers network, get in touch with Juli on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07833 450482.
Find a FoodSavers project (list will grow over the coming weeks).