Surge in demand at Rotherham's social supermarket

AN OUTREACH project aimed at helping the hard-up out beat poverty and put food on the table has seen demand surge to the point it now has a waiting list.

The Social Supermarket based at Rotherham Minster is already serving 40 members a week and there is a four-week wait to join them.

The supermarket is not a foodbank and does not aim to provide emergency support — instead, members pay a small weekly fee for between three and four months in return for essential food supplies.

They can also access social activities and advice on healthy eating, cooking and debt management.

Christine Batchford, who manages the social supermarket, said: “We have quite a bit of a waiting list at the moment which we’ve never heard before .

“We’ve getting a lot of people referred in so we have been having to look into ways of getting more supply.

“We are getting in touch with other services to see what they can deliver to us in larger quantities.”

She added: “We don’t provide emergency support but are more about prevention and simply taking the pressure off people in terms of how they are going to feed themselves that week.

“It allows them to take a step back take a breath and not be so worried about how they are going to get through the week, but we can also help them think about planning more for the long term.

“For some people it is about their finances, but for others it’s about the social contact as well.

“One chap who is coming for three weeks said he feels so much better already — not just for having somewhere to come but because he’s getting fresh food and wanted to cook it and eating more healthily.

“He said he was being more creative with his cooking and felt better as a result and also because he had the financial pressure taken off.”

Christine said rather than frustration at having a waiting list, the organisation’s focus was on making the most of their resources.

“We prefer to think about what we can do, not what we can’t.

“We are a small organisation with limited resources and want to make sure that with the people that we have, we can make a difference to them.

“We are deliberately not a food bank — we are trying to give people longer term support and hopefully not just help them for a few months but beyond that.

“A lot of people that have come to us of managed to improve their situation and their health and are getting into work or training courses.

“One man has started his own allotment group and for others, it’s a case of seeing what they can so and how they can make a difference to their lives.”

The Minster recently hosted a community drop-in day for networking between community and outreach groups and for the public to pick up advice.

Christine added: “It was useful for getting to know each other to strengthen relationships — a chance to get to know one another again.

Citizens Advice did some face to face consultation about support with energy bills and people came along to engage with the staff about housing and debt support.

“The feedback we've had from other people that game has been really positive.”

The Social Supermarket operates every Tuesday and Thursday. For more details, visit the Social Supermarket - Rotherham Minster Facebook page or enquire at the Minster.