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Launch of school food pantries to support local communities

Staff at two schools in North Yorkshire are supporting local communities, parents and pupils to help cope with the cost-of-living crisis by running food pantries.

Greatwood Community Primary and Nursery School in Skipton and Glusburn Community Primary School in Glusburn are working closely with North Yorkshire Council’s Healthy Schools Team as part of a pilot programme to provide sustainable and affordable food supplies to help the increasing number of families facing financial pressures.

The headteacher of Greatwood Community Primary and Nursery School, Jonelle Yeoman, explained that she first had the idea in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic when communities were sharing food, daily necessities and facing new food insecurity challenges.

The Healthy Schools Team helped link her up with the Craven Food Partnership and FareShare to provide a weekly food delivery of surplus supermarket food to help launch the Greatwood Grocery.

The pantry, which is open on a Tuesday, launched six weeks ago and is going from strength-to-strength.

“We’ve had an amazing response with more and more families visiting each week,” she said. “We are thankful for a monetary donation from the Rotary Club of Skipton Craven which helped to kickstart this project. Skipton is an affluent town, however, there are families who are living in poverty and this is our way of giving back. We are not a foodbank, we are here for the community for them to have a chat, share recipes to prepare healthy and cost-effective meals and buy essentials at reduced prices.

“We are a sustainable school and we grow our own produce – we grow our fruit and vegetables and have our own chickens and ducks supplying eggs on a daily basis. “However, we do rely on donations from local supermarkets and local families who have supported this worthwhile project.”

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Mrs Yeoman added: “This is a not-for-profit initiative and therefore what we make from the sale of groceries is used to purchase more supplies. Anyone from the community can buy 10 items for £5. In our pantry we stock fresh fruit and vegetables, store cupboard favourites such as rice, cereal, soup, pasta, canned vegetables, biscuits, long-life packed food as well as toiletries and cleaning products.”

North Yorkshire Council’s director of public health, Louise Wallace, said: “It’s a real boost to see the school pantries supporting families with sustainable and affordable food. Thank you to the staff, pupils, volunteers and to the kind people who have donated.”

Meanwhile, there is a similar set-up at Glusburn Community Primary School. The school’s staff joined forces with the Healthy Schools team who introduced them to Rethink Food to establish a food pantry for families and school staff, redistributing surplus supermarket food for a small charge. This stops the food from going to waste and helps support customers with a good value weekly shop. Each weekly delivery is stacked on the food pantry trolley by pupils who enjoy arranging the produce into an enticing display.

A core of five to 10 families visit the food pantry each week with others popping in from time to time. The school’s staff are hoping to expand their range of food and would love to eventually serve the wider community too.

Mother-of-three Jade Robinson, who lives in Glusburn and regularly shops from the pantry, said: “It’s a wonderful scheme which reduces food waste and saves money. It has been a huge blessing this past year when things have been tighter and the cost of living is extortionate.” 

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The school’s headteacher, Katie Smith, said: “The pantry is primarily run by members of our school ambassador team and school council. They have the responsibility of pricing up the products on sale as well as being on hand to offer support and receive payment when families visit the pantry. This provides a great opportunity to develop a wide range of skills and experiences such as confidence and responsibility.

“North Yorkshire Council’s initial start-up funding of the scheme at our school has been fundamental in providing these opportunities this year and we will look to develop this over the coming years.”

More information about the Healthy Schools programme or if a North Yorkshire school wishes to set up their own food pantry is available via email at healthyschools@northyorks.gov.uk

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