Oldham based social landlord, First Choice Homes (FCH) is investing over £80,000 to combat poverty among its customers on low incomes and bring a discounted food service to their local communities.
FCH has partnered with Manchester-based food surplus redistribution charity, The Bread and Butter Thing (TBBT) to provide good quality food for a fraction of its usual price to FCH customers. The aim is to increase the amount of disposable income in their pockets, so they don't have to choose between buying food, paying bills or buying other basics.
The affordable food service takes place every week at community centres in some of the most deprived areas in the borough. For just £7, customers' shopping bags are filled with a minimum of £35 worth of items made up of quality fresh food and store cupboard staples from supermarkets. Those with larger families have the option to pay £14 for a double order and FCH's Community Impact Team will also hand deliver shopping to customers whose health needs may make it difficult to attend.
The TBBT scheme launched at NEON Hub in the Greenacres area of the borough at the end of November 2019, quickly followed by a second hub at Sholver and Moorside Community Centre in January 2020. To date, people who have used the service have saved more than £10,000 between them. Over the next 12 months, FCH and TBBT plan to expand the offer to at least three more locations in Oldham. Once it's fully established, every week TBBT will be serving approximately 450 customers, saving them a collective total of almost £10,000 per week – that's over half a million pounds a year.
As well as distributing much-needed food, the scheme creates a useful point of contact for customers to get help and advice. Charlene has been using the service at NEON since it launched last year when she was encouraged to attend by her Community Impact Advisor.
Charlene Brennan says: "I turn up to The Bread and Butter Thing every week and it's saving my household a big chunk of our income. The food is brilliant, the staff are nice and my son is eating more veg. The extra money is now helping me pay off some debts and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our family is a lot happier, we're a lot more secure and I don't feel like I'm going to lose everything any more."
Vinny Roche, FCH Chief Executive said: "Our customers do their very best to get by but food poverty is on the rise in Oldham. At First Choice Homes, we've decided we can't just sit back and let that happen. That's why we've teamed up with TBBT to make a positive difference to our customers in the greatest need. We've funded the partnership, aimed at getting the food service running five days a week, 52 weeks a year to a minimum of 450 of our customers every week.
"The results to date are fantastic and I'm excited to see what we can achieve in the future. The more of us joining the fight against poverty the better and if further partners would like to get on board to help us reach even more people in need, I encourage them to get in touch."
Mark Game, TBBT Chief Executive added: "The financial savings for people using the service are significant, people eat better quality and a bigger variety of food, and we save tonnes of surplus edible food from going to waste. It's a win/win solution for everyone, and we're looking forward to seeing our partnership develop in Oldham and improve the lives of more and more people."