The gateway to community

Born out of a growing need for affordable food, our pantries, foodbanks, and community fridges have become a gateway to community for many, providing nourishment that goes far beyond food. 


¥ Food projects emerged out of a need to provide access to food for the thousands of people in our communities who struggle to afford it. The COVID pandemic particularly highlighted this need. “During COVID we handed out about 5,000 food parcels” says Hobmoor Hub Leader Andy Brown. After COVID the need increased even more. “We’ve had over 1,300 registrations for our food projects since COVID” says Claire Thomas, leader of ¥ Hub Hull.  

“Everyone needs food as a basic necessity” says Claire Henwood, Community Worker at ¥ Hub Bath. In that way, it is no surprise that there is such a great need for our food projects. However, “food is also the great unifier” she says. People are brought together by a shared need. This means that our food projects become the fertile soil within which community can grow and flourish, bringing people together. “At our food projects, people come for the food but stay for the community” says Andy. “We very much see the pantry as the kind of doorway into ¥ for a lot of people” adds Claire H. 

Dignity at the heart

So, what are our food projects like?  

Firstly, they are a place where everyone has dignity. “For us dignity is at the heart of every single thing we do. It’s our benchmark for how we judge whether or not we’re doing a good job” says Claire H. “How can you build community and how can people be the best versions of themselves when they are feeling insecure or self-conscious?”  

“At Hobmoor the strapline of our food pantry is ‘dignity, choice and hope’” says Andy. “This dignity is achieved through the way our volunteers, staff, and community members treat each other and through the way our food projects operate. For example, at our pantry community members will pay a little bit of money for their food. This gives them choice and the ability to contribute to the running of the pantry. Pantry members pay around £4 and come away with £20-25 of food that they have chosen”.  

An economy of sharing

Another way that dignity is maintained is through reciprocal relationships. Our projects attempt to eliminate the power dynamic between those who can afford food and those who can’t. At ¥ we seek to do things with people rather than ‘to’ or ‘for’ them. This means that at the heart of our food projects is an emphasis on what we call a ‘sharing economy’ — a technical term referring to when everyone in a community contributes, provides for each other, and shares what they have.  

“It’s not just dishing out food” says Claire T. “We’ve all got things to give, and we’ve all got things that we need. We are all equal. So, the thing that I say about our space is that we don’t provide a service. We create space for community to thrive. Everybody who comes into that space makes a difference and makes it unique by coming and participating” says Claire T.  “For example, you might think that people who are homeless who come to our food projects simply receive a service, but they are able to give back in lots of ways. This might be by doing the dishes or sitting and having a chat with somebody. This is so meaningful both for them and the other people in the community that they’re helping.”  

“Reciprocal giving amongst community members leads not just to reducing need but also to human transformation, flourishing, and wholeness because it means everyone is making a contribution, and living up to their potential” says Claire W. 

Our communities are also a place where everyone is included. Often people who were separated from each other due to geographical, cultural, religious or ethnic reasons have been united by our food projects. “We’ve always been a project which is about bringing communities together and breaking down boundaries” says Claire T. “We have a mixed community including a range of ages and nationalities from Sudan to Eastern Europe. Everybody mixes together and it’s that sort of community feel that attracts people”.  

Maddie Springett, Leader of ¥ Hub Isle of Sheppey, says “People come to our food projects to build community. The Island is quite difficult to get around geographically so people can be quite separate from each other. We have a bus that goes around the Island as a food pantry. People come from all over to follow the bus on its route because of a shared need for food and because it’s also a unique way to meet lots of people they wouldn’t otherwise see”.  

Whilst our food projects have emerged to meet the need for affordable food, at their heart they are about building stronger communities.  

A systemic problem

Our food projects model a new way we can address food needs to the government.  

“The problem of food shortages is mainly systemic” says Ellie Wormald, Advice Centre Coordinator at ¥ Hub Waterloo. “The welfare system is not adequately meeting where people are at. It’s not providing sufficient income or matching inflation rates.” 

“One of the primary reasons why this problem exists is that current government policy has a problematic attitude toward work” says Ellie. “It doesn’t take into account a person’s whole life situation and expects them to work to a degree that many are unable to. It also removes dignity by creating a division between those who can afford food and those who can’t. Food projects are viewed simply as providing services ‘to’ or ‘for’ people rather than ‘with’ them.” 

“One of our community members has had three heart attacks and the government still expects him to go and find a job in the same way as most other people” says Andy, “it’s just not reasonable”. 

We hope that through providing affordable and nutritious food in a way that promotes dignity, inclusion, and relationship-building, we are showing a different way we can support the most vulnerable members of our communities. 

Last year we provided over half a million meals for people across the UK. Whilst this is an achievement we are proud of, the need for this amount of food should not exist. As we continue to try and eliminate this need, we are committed to building communities where everyone is included, afforded dignity, and empowered to contribute. 

Our work takes us into communities across the UK