Housing Executive funds social supermarket helping during cost of living crisis

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive has provided £100,000 in funding to help a North Belfast social supermarket helping people through the cost of living crisis.

The Pantry, a social supermarket and community fridge, based at the Ashton Centre in Churchill Street is providing essentials and groceries to people in its community affected by the cost of living crisis and are experiencing extreme financial hardship.

Families are referred to the social supermarket by a range of agents such as schools, GP surgeries, community organisations, Housing Executive patch managers and food banks.

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Christine McKeown, Head of Childcare and Family Support at the Ashton Centre, said: “We are delighted to have received this funding from the Housing Executive, which is essential for this scheme to continue.

“Our project works directly with 80 families per year and they each attend the social supermarket for a period of 12 weeks.

"For a small membership fee, families can avail of approximately £45 worth of food, personal hygiene and cleaning supplies.

“Families can also attend a benefit advice appointment to ensure they are maximising their household income, avail of budgeting support, and have an opportunity to volunteer and engage with training and employability support and information.”

The three years' worth of funding from the Housing Executive goes towards the salaries of the dedicated coordinators who support families using The Pantry, working alongside them to build their confidence and esteem.

Christine added: “The community fridge supports households experiencing financial difficulties who wish to, but are unable to, immediately benefit from The Pantry.

“By attending the fridge regularly, we can build relationships with local people, which in turn enables support networks to flourish. Our customers can also access a wide range of community-based support services.

“The community fridge works with 100 individuals and families each year.

The community fridge is delivered in partnership with Lidl. It’s part of our range of environmental projects and helps repurpose food which would otherwise go to landfill.”

Gerard Flynn, the Housing Executive’s area manager for North Belfast, said: “We are very pleased to support such a worthwhile scheme helping those who are struggling.

“Projects like this are an important part of our work to try and ensure that tenants can sustain their tenancies, and, in particular, to help vulnerable customers at greater risk of tenancy breakdown, which leads to more stability for them and for the community in general.”

Emma Geddis, Sustaining Tenancies Grant Funding Programme Manager, said: “We’re delighted that so many tenants in north Belfast are able to benefit from this funding.

“Not only are they getting practical assistance when it is most needed, they are also supported in the longer term to develop resilience and coping skills relevant to poverty, health and wellbeing, family support, training, employment, volunteering, which in turn helps to prevent tenancies breaking down.”

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