Mobile food bank and 'social supermarket' launches in Torbay

The new van bears the words 'going God's way'

A new mobile food bank with a difference was launched in Torbay today (29 January).

The minivan was blessed outside all Saints Church at a special service held on Sunday morning. The vehicle is the brainchild of Kelly Harvey who works for Torbay Council and  remembers her mother using food services in the 1980s.

Operating from the church car parks around Torbay, the van will act as a 'social supermarket'. That means that people who might not fit the eligibility for food banks will benefit. They simply need to sign up and then pay a small weekly fee to receive goods up to four or five times the value.

Kelly said social supermarkets have been operating for several years in other parts of the country and she hopes bringing the model to the area will help tackle stigmas around food banks.

The van is stocked with food and can operate both as a food bank for those who need it, and as a social supermarket

She said: "It overcomes those barriers of stigma and of shame because it's a contributions model - people don't feel that they are getting a handout, it's more of an assistance, a cooperative working model."

Kelly added that the contributions will also help support the future funding of the project.

Reverend Nathan Kiyaga, the area dean for Torbay for the Church of England, also said the group has been working with the council and other food sharing services to keep track of the rising number of people needing support due to the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

Nathan said: "The food bank side of the van means that somebody gets a meal for that day. The social supermarket side is to allow somebody to go on that step.

"Imagine if you have three steps: traditional supermarkets as the top step, the social supermarket as the [middle] step, and then you have the food bank [on the bottom step]."

Nathan said he intends for the service to act as a stepping stone, from people who will simply need free food, to those who can make a contribution with the hope they can eventually reach the top step of returning to shops and supermarkets in the future.