A Local Pantry for Victoria

Councillors Mick Lerry & Liz Marsh help stock up the new Victoria Pantry

Valentines Day 2023 had an extra special message of hope for the people of Bridgwater as today the new local Pantry at Victoria Park Community Centre opened its doors for its first trial run through. Staffed by volunteers the actual launch day for Pantry members will be on Tuesday 28th February. Ward councillor Liz Marsh (Victoria, Labour) said “I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time and what a brilliant start . Thanks to all the Volunteers, my fantastic fellow Victoria Ward Cllr Mick Lerry, Gareth and the staff at Victoria Park Community Centre (VPCC), Helen from SDC and Emmaline from the Together Team we made today happen and I couldn’t be happier it’s going to make a real difference to our local community and is an amazing addition to VPCC”

Cllr Liz Marsh at the new Victoria Pantry

Cllr Liz Marsh was elected to Bridgwater Town Council in May 2022 and has been working on this project ever since. We asked her to tell us what a local pantry is and how it will work. “Well it is a membership based initiative to help prevent the massive wastage of perfectly good food from going to landfill. Every year it is estimated that in the UK alone 18 million tonnes of food ends up in landfill sites. In a time of food shortage, economic hardship and increasing environmental concern and instability this is quite frankly shocking! So the charity Fare Share have taken on this issue and collects this surplus good quality food from all across the food industry before it ends up in landfill and redistributes it to various frontline charities and community groups. From this initiative the Local Pantry idea was born. So, for £3.50 a week local people (you need to live within 15 minutes of the Pantry that you are collecting from) can come and collect at least 10 items of food, although it is often more, from a wide selection of groceries. The groceries are worth many times more and can help members save substantially on their shopping bills. The Pantries stock an abundant and wide range of top quality food including fresh food and vegetables, chilled foods including meat and dairy products as well as tinned and packaged foods.”

Open to All

Viccy Park Pantry Volunteers

Cllr Mick Lerry (Victoria Labour) added “It is open to all, you don’t need a referral and just like a shop the members choose what they want each week from the selections that are available. Many members also volunteer, and the pantries are very much member led. Different dietary requirements and allergies can be catered for, and each shopping experience is tailored to the individual member. There is no obligation to take any product, it is all about individual choice from the products that are available. There are already two other Local Pantries in Bridgwater located in Hamp and Sydenham so this Local Pantry will be a much needed third serving the Community of Victoria.”

Town Council Support

Gareth Hughes addresses the volunteers

Welcoming the initiative, Town Council Leader Brian Smedley (Westover, Labour) said “This latest Pantry has only been made possible through the hard work and determination of the Victoria Ward Councillors, Mick Lerry and Liz Marsh, VPCC Manager, Gareth Hughes, Helen Philips at Somerset West and Taunton and Emmaline Kay at Sedgemoor District Council and of course all of the Volunteers. “

Liz Marsh adds “It will run every Tuesday afternoon and members will be given a time to come and collect their food items on that afternoon that suits them. The opening times for collection will be between 2.30pm and 4.30pm every Tuesday initially but may well be extended in the future if needed. If you would like to find out more about volunteering or to become a member please feel free to drop into the Victoria Park Community Centre or contact Gareth Hughes, the VPCC Manager on gareth@vpcc.co.uk or telephone 01278 422255. “