More families queue to buy food shop for £5 in Birmingham as cost of living soars
A community pantry in Birmingham has said it is concerned for the future as it is seeing more people walk through its doors due to the rising cost of living.
St Bart's Local Pantry launched at Allen's Cross Community Centre in Northfield in March and offers a full food shop to struggling families for just £5.
Volunteers have said people are beginning to line up outside the pantry for over an hour before it opens to ensure they can get their weekly food shop.
The pantry has 150 members and is nearing full capacity and struggling to source enough food to meet demand as a result of the rising cost of living crisis.
Pantry coordinator Theresa Hussey says she opened the shop an hour early once and a queue of people has already formed outside.
Ms Hussey said: "Membership-wise, we're nearly full. We will have 150 members in total who visit at least once per month, most come more often.
"We don't means test - as long as they live within three miles. We just ask everyone if they are struggling to pay their rent, mortgage or bills, which every single person has said yes to."Energy bills are a huge concern at the moment. We also ask 'have you cut down on food shopping because of money concerns?' and all our members have done."What we're struggling with is making sure we have enough food.
"We apply for funding but it's difficult to secure funding just to pay for food each week - but that is what we desperately need. It's a serious issue for us at the moment."
Food ranges from fresh fruit and veg, meat, canned goods, and homemade soups and toasties.
Customers can select ten items for £5 which would usually cost more than £20 from a typical supermarket.
Ms Hussey said the stories of why people are visiting are "heartbreaking".
She said: "I had one mum, who lives two roads away, who was in tears when she left because it was the first time in a long time that she was able to buy meat for her children."
"So that level of need is great and these stories are typical and not extremely unusual."
The pantry is also expanding its services so customers can not only get a food shop but slow cooker lessons and teaches members about healthy eating, batch cooking, and using leftovers.
Elderly people, who can't afford to turn on their heating, can also use the pantry as a warm bank - a free heated space for visitors to sit and enjoy a hot drink amid the soaring cost of energy bills.
Ms Hussey says the pantry has opened earlier to help people stay warm for longer and help people alone socialise.
All of the money paid by members goes back into buying food for the pantry alongside donations from local churches, community groups, and a nearby allotment.
St Bart's says despite the donations they are still spending around £100 a week to top up supplies.
Labour councillor for the Allens Cross Ward, Jack Deakin, holds an advice surgery at the pantry and says he noticed more people use its services.
He said: "The pantry has changed massively even in the last few weeks because of the number of people that are turning up each week, there has been a massive increase. The main issue is the availability of food."We pride ourselves on the choice and dignity we offer members - it's unique as opposed to a food bank because people can choose what they want each week. But there is a growing concern that the lack of food will mean we can't always do that.
"It is a very desperate situation some weeks."