Read how BASIC Life Charity is helping to feed hundreds of cash-strapped Suffolk people every week
With more and more people struggling to make ends meet, one Suffolk charity has found an effectively simple way to distribute food to those in need while tackling issues like loneliness and isolation.
BASIC Life Charity hosts weekly community pop-up shops at churches in Walton, Felixstowe, Trimley and Ipswich.
Anyone can turn up and buy one bag for £1 or maximum two for £2 and fill them with items of their choosing from a selection of fresh food laid out on tables, including fruit, vegetables, bread and canned goods.
The charity has formed partnerships with Tesco, Morrisons and FareShare, which regularly donate food that is destined for destruction but still perfectly edible.
There are also toiletries, clothes, children’s books and kitchen utensils available.
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Each session attracts around 50-60 people who queue outside the church before its opens and can stay for up to two hours to enjoy free cake and hot drinks prepared by volunteers.
Graham Denny, founder of BASIC Life Charity, said this method offered choice and dignity for people that was often denied at foodbanks.
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Around 50% of those who need it will never use a foodbank out of pride, Mr Denny said, but people tend to feel more comfortable using a community pop-up shop as they have made a small monetary contribution and are able to pick items that they like.
Mr Denny, 56, said people of all ages and walks of life attended the pop-ups, from office workers, to single parents and elderly people.
“We are not judgemental,” Mr Denny said. “We try to have a spirit of generosity.”
Money made at the pop-ups is going towards the charity’s fundraising for a parish nurse in Felixstowe, who will be able to help residents with everyday health needs.
Mr Denny started the Christian charity 17 years ago with the aim of ensuring everyone in Felixstowe and the surrounding areas were able to meet their basic needs. It has two traditional charity shops, one in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, and another in High Street, Walton, which also host foodbanks.
When asked what motivates him to do this work, Mr Denny said: “I love it. I get so much out of it. It’s a bit of an honour to be helping people, that’s my biggest buzz really.”
‘Without it I would struggle’
A Suffolk woman whose meagre income has been sliced because of the bedroom tax has said the community pop-up shops are a “lifeline”.
Donna Salter has to live on £20 less a week since her son moved away from home a year a half ago, which has affected her ability to buy essentials like food and clothes.
The 44-year-old now relies on the support of BASIC Life Charity through its pop-up sessions in Felixstowe.
She said: “It’s a lifeline.
“I think all the charities are good but this one in particular you get to meet people and it’s cheap.
“How can you live on £50 a week? At least I know I can get a few bits here.
“It gets me my food, gets me meeting people and helps with clothes and company.
“It’s so great for everyone young and old.”
Marie, who did not want to give her last name, is not able to work because of health problems so she attends the pop-up shops so she can put food on the table.
The 43-year-old said: “It needs to be put out there that these pop-up shops are happening and they are not just for people on benefits. Where would anyone turn without it? No one needs anything to come here. You haven’t got to get a ticket, you just come here freely and get what you need.
“If you want to get a coffee and talk, we will all talk. It’s everyone pulling together.”
Marie and Miss Salter now volunteer for BASIC Life Charity.
Andy Costin, 54, has been using the service for six months.
He said: “It’s more the company and being able to give and take.
“I quite often come here and I have a bag of stuff to give to them then I pay the £1 and take food. I like that there’s a bit of balance rather than me just taking food.”
Dot Southey lives on a basic pension and almost half of that is spent on rent every month.
The 75-year-old has attended the sessions since they launched around two years ago.
She said: “It’s a lovely atmosphere. You can chat to people and it gets me out of the house for two hours.
“It’s the company and it’s a laugh. Without it I would struggle.
“It means a lovely Tuesday morning out – that’s thanks to Graham, without him we wouldn’t be here.”
Mrs Southey said attending the pop-up shops made her feel less lonely.