In the fight to tackle food poverty, a concept titled the “Social Supermarket” has emerged. A social supermarket sells discounted food to those who are experiencing poverty or live on a low income, selling food 70% cheaper than high-street supermarkets.
What is the Social Supermarket?
The Observer’s restaurant critic and feature writer, Jay Rayner, explains in his article discussing the rise of the social supermarket for The Guardian that “it’s not about selling cheap food, but building strong communities.” Community First estimates that one-third of the food that the world produces goes to waste, meaning it converts to landfill and rots to produce methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas. It has also revealed that “1.9 million tonnes of food is wasted by the food industry every year in the U.K.” and “250,000 tonnes of the food that goes to waste each year is still edible.” This is where the “Social Supermarket” helps.
Run by voluntary organizations working with local food producers and suppliers, social supermarkets aim to provide products at a lower cost than traditional supermarkets. Torbay Food Alliance refers to social supermarkets owning the capability to help “prevent people reaching the point where they need a food bank.”
What is the Difference Between a Food Bank and a Social Supermarket?
A food bank is an emergency support service provided to people in crisis. It lacks control over the items on offer and the food is not always fresh.
This concept aims to provide short-term support. Alternatively, social supermarkets provide a range of discounted food for, usually, up to six months. A social supermarket offers a variety of products from fresh food to toiletries and cleaning supplies.
Unfortunately, social supermarkets may soon experience high demand. As Money Magpie states, “Social supermarkets and food re-distributors have popped up in quick succession in the last few months. With food insecurity becoming a real issue for more people than ever before, the choice between heating and eating this winter is a real threat for people across the U.K.”
Who Can Use a Social Supermarket?
There are multiple social supermarkets around the U.K. for the public to use. Additionally, with 4.7 million people reported in 2021/22 experiencing food poverty, many can benefit from this service. Anyone is eligible to use a social supermarket — shoppers do not need to receive welfare benefits.
Community First has released the following statement about its work with social supermarkets: “We’re hoping that those who find themselves having to use FoodBanks have an alternative with the added benefit of taking away any stigma and providing healthy options at affordable prices.”
How Has the Social Supermarket Already Reduced Food Poverty?
The Mayor of London is funding three new social supermarkets in London, with Haringey, Enfield and Lambeth councils spending a share of £300,000 to set up the new stores. Hosting London’s very first social supermarket, Lambeth has helped 520 low-income households access discounted food and even employment; along with food access, social supermarkets also bring new jobs to underprivileged people. London Assembly explains that “the London Food Board will work to ensure that everyone in London can access good, healthy food at every stage of their lives, from new mothers to children, all the way through to older people who may be at risk of malnutrition often caused by inadequate diets.”
The social supermarket concept has helped many people overcome the struggle of food poverty. However, with 49 million people in 43 countries still experiencing food poverty and 3 billion people unable to fund a healthy, nutritious diet, there is still a need for more work.
– Katerina Petrou