A month after the Vale Pantry opened its doors in Sturminster Newton last November to help struggling local families, Rachael Rowe visited to discover they were already helping around 91 local families in their first month.
Two months on, the Vale Pantry is still opening just Thursdays and Saturdays, but things are busier than ever – an oddly conflicting statement. It’s naturally wonderful news the Pantry is able to help so many more people; and yet at the same time disturbing that there is such a need for them in our own local community.
I caught up with Jane Dawes, Managing Parner for the Blackmore Vale GPs.
“We have set up a GoFundMe page to help raise some funds to help us expand our reach in the local community. We now have 174 members signed up who shop with us weekly, and we are helping to feed 580 people each week in the local area.”
“Members come from the whole of North Dorset” continued Jane “and we have 26 families from the Shaftesbury area on our books currently. Our plan has always been to set up similar facilities in the Shaftesbury area.
“We have a weekly supply of food from the national charity FareShare but then have to supplement this with top ups from local providers such as the Dorset Dairy Company, Root and Vine and local egg suppliers. Oxfords Bakery donate all of their unsold bread and cakes to us on a Thursday for free – they’re amazing!
“We originally set our membership limit at 150 but due to the current situation with Covid, furlough schemes and redundancy there are so many families in need that we feel we can’t turn people away. Some of the stories are just heart-breaking, so many people are really struggling.
We have had an amazing response so far from people, they have been so generous with their donations, we raised over £5,000 in the first week and have now extended the amount to £10,000.
This will enable us to open a shop in the Shaftesbury area to help support more people on a permanent basis.
We are currently also applying for grants both nationally and locally to help us to continue this work. Our costs of running this service are approximately £1,700 per week, even while entirely run with volunteers.
Any amounts however small are much appreciated; as an example, however, £25 will help us to feed a family for a month.
The Vale Pantry is a community project funded by The Blackmore Vale Partnership, GP Practice in North Dorset. It is a membership organisation where people pay a small weekly fee of £4.50 and are then able to select 16 items (usually £20- £30 value) from our shop in the middle of Sturminster Newton. We also provide free fruit and vegetables, free nappies, plus essential household items such as sanitary wear and toilet rolls.
We are part of the “Your Local Pantry”, Group who support communities in setting up Pantry’s to provide access to good quality food and household goods for anyone who may be struggling financially.
By: Laura Hitchcock