Pantries help stretch household budgets

Four Food Pantries are supporting people across South Leeds who are struggling put food on the table.

Middleton-based charity Health For All set up the pantry scheme which is now operating at Cranmore & Raylands Community Centre in Belle Isle, Middleton Family Centre on Sissons Road, the Watsonian Pavilion in Cross Flatts Park, Beeston and Middleton Parochial Hall on North Lingwell Road.

For a membership fee of £3.50 a week, members can choose from a wide range of fresh, chilled, frozen and tinned food.

The food is bought in bulk from the charity Fairshare who work with the supermarkets to make sure that food near its Sell By date feeds hungry mouths rather going to landfill. As well as Fairshare the pantries receive regular donations from the Co-op, Greggs and Warburtons.

Organiser Karen Hargreaves explained about how food is dated:

“We will give members some things that are past their Best Before date. We’re trying to educate people that if it’s past its Best Before date it’s OK, it won’t cause you any harm, the quality might decline, but the safety of the food is absolutely fine.

“Whereas we would never give anything that was after the Use By date, because it’s not safe; unless it’s been frozen the day before, in which case it will be labelled with a date and needs to be used within 24 hours of defrosting.”

Covid security and food safety are key concerns, so each member has a 15 minute slot when they can visit and choose their items for the week. In between slots everything is wiped down, safe, clean and ready for the next member.

All the pantries are busy and there’s a healthy waiting list, which organisers plan to address by increasing their opening hours.

“The great thing about this being a Health For all project is that all the Food Pantry members can access to other services Health For All provide, computer training and access, peer support groups, help to get people back into work exercise classes” said Karen.

Comments from members back up how this project is making a difference to people’s lives:

“I really like coming here because it feels so safe, compared to going to the supermarket.”

“I’ve 4 kids at home, so it’s really helped me to provide extra meals and I’m batch cooking.”

“I had to finish work due to ill health and can’t get a pension yet. I’ve been spending my savings on things like the electricity bill. But now I don’t have to buy fruit and veg from the supermarket and we’re getting some treats too.”

“It’s saved me at least £12 and I can now put some money on the gas.”

The long term plan is to support the members to take over the running of each pantry as a separate, sustainable project.

If you would like to join the pantry scheme call into the centres or contact Karen on 07494 071981 or email

Holbeck Together run a similar scheme. The Holbeck Together Community Shop is open from 10am-2pm each Thursday at St Matthews Community Centre. You can sign up to become a member and pay £2.50 a week to access a choice of 12 items of chilled, frozen, ambient and fresh food and plenty of other essential items. Items will vary each week. Those joining will receive a free cool bag to carry their shopping home each time they visit.

Please call Holbeck Together on (0113) 245 5553 to sign up.