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The UK’s first full-scale Community Shop has opened in Lambeth, selling food and drink that would otherwise be thrown away to people on the verge of food poverty for 70% less than high street prices. (Scroll down for video).

Backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, the opening of the first permanent Community Shop marks the start of a national rollout programme for its owner Company Shop Group, with plans to open 20 more social supermarkets across the country. This follows a successful pilot store which opened in South Yorkshire last December.

Johnson said: “This is a sterling example of social enterprise and private organisations working together to create positive outcomes. We hope this is the first in a chain of outlets in the capital that will provide access to affordable food for people struggling to make ends meet whilst providing help back into work.”

Social purpose

Community Shop works on a membership basis, each involving 750 members – all living locally and on income support. Members can shop for surplus food from leading supermarkets – also including Morrisons, The Co-operative and Ocado – with food and drink items coming from top brands such as Innocent, Brake Brothers, Nestlé and Muller.

Members also enrol on a tailored professional development programme called The Success Plan, which aims to raise members’ self-confidence and job prospects.

Company Shop Group chairman John Marren said: “Community Shop is tackling the problem of surplus food, whilst giving it real social purpose. Not only do we offer high-quality low-cost food to people experiencing tough times, but we provide them with the chance to take up support services because they are motivated to do better.

“Members can shop for good food at great prices, which eases pressure on their family budgets, and they will also access tailored, professional development programmes, to kick-start positive change in their own lives.”

Tried and tested

It is estimated that around 3.5 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK, before it even reaches people’s shopping basket, with about 10% of that figure still deemed good enough to be eaten – because it is in damaged packaging or has been mislabelled. The Community Shop’s 20 stores will directly support around 20,000 people nationwide and have a knock-on benefit to around 50,000 family members.

Commenting on the opening of this first permanent store, Forum for the Future’s founder-director Sir Jonathon Porritt said: “This is now a tried and tested business model, bringing significant benefits to local communities, to the food companies involved, and to the huge number of citizens now able to benefit from this highly creative way of avoiding waste in the food chain.”

Company Shop is the UK’s largest redistributor of surplus food, providing a sustainable approach to tackling the inevitable surpluses produced in the UK food supply chain.

VIDEO: We are Community Shop

Luke Nicholls

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