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Help us to tackle food poverty

Since the start of the pandemic, the Council has provided 1.26 million meals to the most vulnerable residents, families, children and young people in North Ayrshire.

Now as we all face a new crisis – the financial strain of the current Cost-Of-Living crisis – The Council’s Fairer Food Network has expanded to include four new food larders in Beith, Kilbirnie, Saltcoats and Springside (due to open early October).

This now brings the total number of the larders in the network to 14, operating in communities with the help of community partners and organisations to help alleviate food poverty in our communities.

Set up in partnership with community organisations during the pandemic, there are currently 14 established larders in operation so far throughout Irvine, Kilwinning, Three Towns, North Coast and the Garnock Valley.

In addition, food support for the islands has been coordinated locally, including creating food contingency stores at Arran Outdoor Education Centre.

Open to individuals in need and families, community food larders are vital facilities working on a membership basis and provide a dignified top-up grocery shop to help people who are struggling with the expenses of their weekly food shopping.

How do they work?

For a small membership fee, members get the opportunity to access a variety of low-cost produce including fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, tinned goods and a selection of personal hygiene products.

When combined as a basket shop, members are set to save in excess of £10 per visit to their local larder.

The larders offer a holistic approach to tackling poverty in North Ayrshire. Not only can members access a variety of produce at a cheaper price, making their weekly grocery shopping go that little bit further, they can also be signposted to a host of other services including financial help and support, adult learning and volunteering opportunities and mental health and wellbeing resources.

Preparing for a challenging winter period

With our own weekly food shopping prices at an all-time high and energy and household bills set to soar again this month, the role of the community larders are more important than ever before and the Council is acutely aware of how difficult the next few months are going to be for everyone.

The Council’s Community Economic Development Officer, Laura Taylor commented: “As the Cost-Of-Living crisis rages on, the need for subsidised food is more prominent than ever before.

“Our community food larders are at the very forefront of the Council’s Fairer Foods strategy, ensuring that everyone in North Ayrshire has the right to access food with dignity without any stigma attached.

“Originally set-up as part of the Council’s immediate pandemic response, the larders are now at the forefront of Fairer Food network’s fight to tackle the strain and financial stress experienced by so many as a current Cost-Of-Living crisis.

“We are proud to continue to support North Ayrshire’s vital Fairer Food network with the opening of the latest four larders. The community larders are going a long way in helping vulnerable residents but they can’t do it alone.

Laura added: “As we approach Challenge Poverty Week (3-9 October) and perhaps one of the most financially challenging winters of our lives, we would encourage all staff who feel that they are able to, to please donate food items to their local community larder if they have a few tins to spare.”

Elaine Wright, Fair for All Development Officer, recently joined Laura and the Fairer Food team and is working across all areas of North Ayrshire.

She shares: “Over the last two years, officers and community groups have been continuing to work hard in the background to bring community food providers together, working towards a food cooperative to negotiate group deals and strengthen the food supply network.

“Unlike a food bank which offers emergency food provision, people do not require a referral to access the community larder – providing a far more dignified approach to addressing food insecurity. Membership is open to everyone within the catchment areas and all that is needed to join the scheme is a letter to confirm your name and address.”

Larders are accepting donations now

Elaine adds: “Each of the Council’s food larders are currently accepting donations of non-perishable items. The most popular items are: cereal, sugar, biscuits, diluting juice, tinned meat, pasta, tinned veg, pasta sauce, stock cubes, one meal tins (macaroni/soup/chilli con carne etc), rice pudding, custard, jelly, jam, shampoo and deodorant.

“The network is urging staff, if you can, to please do your part to help our larders tackle poverty this winter. Visit the Google Map to find your nearest larder and opening times to drop off donations. Thank you to everyone who is able to do their part to the support the larders, your help is much appreciated.

“The team would also like to extend our gracious thanks to the outstanding efforts of local community volunteers, North Ayrshire Foodbank and all the colleagues across the Fairer Food network who are raising the profile of our community larders across the area and empowering local people to seek help and access the support they need.”

“With a daunting and difficult task ahead, we are encouraging all staff who feel that they are able, to please donate some of their non-perishable cupboard and pantry items to their local food larder.  We have over 7,000 employees, so just think what a massive difference we could make together if we were able to even just donate a few tinned items each.”

Laura Taylor, Community Economic Development Officer

We’ll be catching up with the Fairer Food team in the next edition of Staff Talk to learn more about what is next for the larder network. Stay tuned to social media next week for our video recap of all the current larders, and if you know someone in need of additional help or you would like to make a monetary donation to any of the larders, please email: Elaine Wright:

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