Community Shop was a different stop on my trip. It’s a social enterprise that works to empower and build community through realising the social potential of surplus food. They sell products intercepted from stores at about 70% cheaper than supermarkets. The Community Shop I visited is one of two stores at the moment, with efforts to open many more around London and other cities in the UK. Individuals are able to join a 6 month membership, if they live within a catchment area and receive income support.
I was surprised to see that part of the shop was a cafe, where a cook dishes up meals for members of the shop made all from products in the store. This is open for Breakfast and Lunch from Monday to Friday. There is a real sense that Community Shop is more than just food, with quite a clear emphasis on the Community Hub part of the space. This is where members take part in workshops, build skill sets, plan and receive support.
The shop does not take on volunteers, but has a small team of paid staff. They are a non-government organization so they feel much more freedom to do what their individual members need. As for food, they pay a very small fee to supermarkets to receive surplus. Of course, supermarkets would have to pay landfill tax if they were to waste the products, so if a small payment is some encouragement for supermarkets to put effort into wasting less, then Community Shop are willing to pay it.
I was a little surprised to learn one of the reasons that they receive food. I had not thought before that when people/organizations place a food order for delivery, that if that delivery is running late and doesn’t make it on time – all of the food is often wasted. This is because it costs the supermarket more in labour to unpack the delivery and redistribute the products in the store. I learnt that this happens a lot in London, I guess where traffic can be super chaotic. Community shop receive these unpacked, undelivered delivery orders, so the often get some really random stuff. Last week they had their first cat basket in store!
Of course, the shop also receives pallets of food that would be wasted due to incorrect labels, damaged packaging, over-ordering or if the store just doesn’t have enough room to store it all. They also take items past their pest before date, perfect fit for human consumption, but not able to be sold in shops.
I was glad to visit Community Shop and experience another different initiative working within the food waste movement. There was a real energy in the space – lots of laugher and chatter between staff and members. It was great to meet and chat with the manager as well as other folks in the team. The cook was super happy to write up a couple of recipes and send them to me sometime soon!