Struggling households in Croydon have saved a combined £3,100 in just seven weeks since the council and community groups launched London’s first joint welfare and food club.
In late October, Croydon Council, the Fieldway Family Centre, food charity FareShare and local groups launched The Food Stop, where New Addington and Fieldway residents can get around £20 worth of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy and other foods each week for £3.50.
So far, 81 households have become Food Stop members – most of these are parents with children but there are also several elderly members. As well as the cheaper food, members can access benefits including a weekly jobs club, a cookery course starting in January and budgeting help to avoid homelessness.
The scheme is innovative because, in return for access to discounted groceries, families in need are signed up to receive help with household finances from Croydon Council’s Gateway service. Since being set up in 2015, Gateway has helped more than 1,300 families avoid homelessness, supported over 500 people into jobs, and given £2m to support residents with rent arrears.
In just over a month, the Food Stop has:
• Helped residents attending every week to save up to £100 on average
• Prevented three households from being evicted by mediating with the landlord or providing an emergency housing grant from the council
• Referred several members for training courses, from IT to customer service
• Recruited two local jobseekers to volunteer in the Food Stop on work experience
The food ranges from fresh meat and vegetables to tinned foods and pasta, and includes donations provided by charity Fareshare that sources products from supermarkets including Tesco, Waitrose and Aldi. As part of the project, FareShare has enabled the Food Stop to become a local collection point for other charities who distribute free food elsewhere, such as the Salvation Army.
The Food Stop is a partnership between the council, the Family Centre, FareShare and Tesco in Elmers End, plus local community organisations and specialists helping with jobs and training, including Calat and Reed.
“It’s fantastic the Food Stop is making a real difference to struggling households of all ages by putting food on the table and making bills more affordable.
“However, the Food Stop isn’t just about short-term support, but assisting residents in the long term – from learning to cook healthier meals and getting a job to affording family days out. There are still around 20 membership places left, so any New Addington or Fieldway residents who need help should contact the superb team based at The Family Centre.”
Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
The Food Stop opens every Wednesday and Thursday to anyone with an address in Fieldway or New Addington wards, with priority given to jobseekers on benefits such as Universal Credit. For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01689 844277