Two community food pantries open in Wigan

The facilities are the latest efforts to help residents in the town living on the breadline.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 4:45 am
Volunteers at Ashton Pantry
Volunteers at Ashton Pantry

Ashton Pantry in St Thomas’ Church Hall and St Nathaniel’s Food Pantry in the Platt Bridge church building of the same name started offering low-cost goods to residents last month.

The Ashton pantry is a Church Wigan outlet which is part of the Real Junk Food Project which keeps edible groceries out of landfill.

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Volunteers at St Nathaniel's Food Pantry in Platt Bridge

Residents can visit the Ashton pantry four days a week while the one at St Nathaniel’s is currently open on Thursday mornings.

Food pantries offer cash-strapped residents the chance to pick up fresh produce for low prices, with most of them having an annual membership cost and then having an amount that is handed over each visit in return for a set number of items.

Church Wigan says this is an extremely important part of its ministry and it hopes to eventually have a food pantry in each of the seven worship hubs across the borough.

Alison Brown from Church Wigan, who manages Tom’s Pantry in Poolstock, said: “We’re delighted to have the two new pantries open. We’ve got three now and there are others to follow.

Volunteer John Boon at Ashton Pantry

“Our aim is for the people of Wigan to be able to have access to food and we’re working with the Real Junk Food Project to feed bellies not bins.

“We consider this a vital part of our ministry. Our aim is to feed people both physically and spiritually.”

Alison said Church Wigan’s own figures showed that the two new pantries between them fed around 285 families in their first month of operation.

The more established Tom’s Pantry, meanwhile, sees on average more than 40 people coming to collect food each time it opens.

Karen Bullen at St Nathaniel's Food Pantry in Platt Bridge

Ashton Pantry is receiving deliveries from Fur Clemt and also intercepts food from sources including local warehouses, supermarkets and fast-food outlets.

Church Wigan assures residents that while this food may be close to its best-before date or beyond it in some cases it is perfectly edible, with pantries never issuing food past its use-by date.

Ashton Pantry is run on a pay-as-you-feel basis, although there is an annual membership subscription of just £5 and the facility asks for a contribution of £3 per visit towards the running costs.

There is a similar cost structure at St Nathaniel’s, with customers able to take up to 20 items per visit.

St Nathaniel’s Church first got involved when St Barnabas’ at Kitt Green had to move food it was distributing out of its building and the Platt Bridge venue stepped up to offer storage space.

The church then began handing out food parcels to people struggling to get groceries during lockdown and also distributed more than 1,000 Christmas hampers.

That proved the spur to set up the weekly food pantry.

Eileen Houghton from St Nathaniel’s Food Pantry said: “It’s running very well. We’ve got some parents from local primary schools involved as volunteers and they are fantastic.

“Nobody gets turned away from us at all. We don’t ask about people’s circumstances so it’s not about anyone feeling uncomfortable picking stuff up.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of support from the local community and we’ve got more and more members coming in every week.”

St Nathaniel’s is now hoping to find funding to extend its kitchen area and open a pay-as-you-feel cafe.

Ashton Pantry is open on Tuesdays between 11am and noon, Thursdays from 3pm to 4pm, Saturdays from 11am to noon and Sundays from 3pm until 4pm.

St Nathaniel’s Food Pantry is open on Thursdays from 9am until noon.

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