Challenging times for Fareham’s community pantries

By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas

Fareham’s community pantries are facing difficult times with demand rising and donations falling but they remain determined to ensure households struggling with the cost of living are able to put food on the table.

The basic model of community pantries – as explained by Hampshire County Council – is that people register with the pantry and each time they visit, they pay £5 and are then able to select food and other essentials with a value of £15 or more.

There are three pantries listed as operating in the borough of Fareham.

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Fareham’s community pantries

There are three pantries listed as operating in the borough of Fareham:

Waypoint Community Hub based in Waypoint Church, 255 Hunts Pond Road, Titchfield Common, Fareham, PO14 4PG

Open: 9am to 12 noon on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Contact email: via website

Woodsy’s Pantry at the Portchester Hub, 2 New Parade, 38 West Street, Portchester, PO16 9UY

Open: 10am to 12 noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Contact email: admin@portchesterca.org.uk or via website

Hampshire Food Revolution Community Pantry in Fareham North West Community Centre, Henry Cort Drive, Fareham, PO15 6TL

Open: for drop-in sessions Monday and Friday evenings; pre-booked appointments on Saturdays.

Contact email: via website

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Though all of them have the same ultimate objective of providing food to people in need and rely on volunteers and donations, each has its own way of working.

Annie Burden is a director of Hampshire Food Revolution and she told The Globe: “We’re quite different to other pantries. We’re an independent, not-for-profit community interest company aiming to prevent waste food.”

They collect supermarket food which has passed it’s ‘best before’ date – but not food which has passed it’s ‘use by’ date – as well as donations left in supermarkets.

The food is then parcelled up and given out free of charge though Annie said that those, “who can afford it” are encouraged to make a monetary donation of £3 to £5.

The other two pantries operate close to the basic community pantry model.

Waypoint Hub & Community Leader Claire Johnson said: “We very much want people to have their choice and for £5 they can get £15-20 of food”.

This comprises tins and packets and things for the fridge, two main items such as meat, plus a household or toiletry item, and there is a £5 ‘meal deal’ available.

Massive increase in registrations in the last six weeks

All three pantries have experienced a sharp rise in demand in recent weeks.

For this Easter holidays, Hampshire County Council has changed the way in which it distributes meal vouchers – parents of children from schools within two miles of a community pantry have been directed to go to the pantry to collect their vouchers of £15 per child for each week of the holidays.

Cheryl Coleman who manages the Portchester Hub which hosts Woodsy’s Pantry said this has meant more people have found out about the pantry and, “we have registered 25 people since Friday”.

While Claire said Waypoint has experienced, “a huge increase in the last six weeks – double the number of households have been registering with us.”

One trend noted by both Cheryl and Claire is the change in the people using the Woodsy’s and Waypoint pantries – in particular, more elderly people.

At Waypoint, Claire said: “We are now seeing a huge number of pensioners and couples” – families comprise 60 percent of people visiting the pantry whereas two years ago it was 95 percent families.

And Cheryl felt that one reason more pensioners are using Woodsy’s is that the, “pantry is not a food bank – it is not charity.”

Annie, Cheryl and Claire agree that the main reason for the upsurge in people using the pantries is – as highlighted in the national media – the rise in the cost of living though Claire added that part of the rise is landlords putting up rents.

Donations of food and money decline

At the same time as demand is increasing, the pantries are faced with the challenge of getting food and financial donations.

Annie Burden said: “There has been a decline in the volume of food we are collecting probably because the government subsidies in place during Covid have gone; and supermarkets seem to have less food”, and Cheryl has found, “applying for grants is getting harder.”

Then there is the new demand for donations of food, clothes and money for Ukrainian refugees.

Both Cheryl Coleman and Claire Johnson were quick to say they fully understood why people’s donations have been going to the ease the terrible plight of the refugees but felt it was hitting their pantries.

However, the pantries have continued to operate, not turning away anyone who is struggling.

But Cheryl admitted Woodsy’s is now, “having to buy in the majority of our food.”

All the pantries in Fareham are asking local people to donate food and money either directly to them or via collection points because, as one of them put it, we should, “not forget the people in need on our doorstep.”

Image (top): Fareham Borough Council’s Community Pantries flyer