Wolverhampton Council leader Ian Brookfield cut the ribbon at Big Venture’s community shop on Tuesday, encouraging people from across the city to take advantage of this “essential local service”.
At the Big Venture Center on Chesterton Road, people can become a member for just £5 a year and immediately receive a free grocery bag and then the opportunity to buy groceries, toiletries and other products at a heavily reduced price.
The aim is to ensure that an average family of four can support themselves for around £30-40 a week, with the community shop being supported by support from Wolverhampton Council, the Wolves Foundation, its church and donations of surplus items from Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Lidl.
Just eight weeks after the trial opened, it has registered more than 350 members, and is adding 50 new members every week as word of the initiative spreads.
“The Bushbury Hill, Low Hill and Scotlands area is among the second most deprived areas in Wolverhampton and is in the top four per cent of the most deprived areas across the country,” said Karen Trainer, volunteer manager of the Big Center and recent recipient of an MBE in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Honors list.
“As the cost of living is through the roof, we need to support local people with more imaginative projects that will allow them to provide for their families and avoid the stigma that can sometimes come with food banks.
“Our new community shop is one of those solutions that we’ve been working on for a long time – but it’s been worth the wait and the impact we’re making so far means we’re helping 1,000 people every week gain access to groceries and essential products to get that would previously have been out of their budget.
“We’ve also had a really good response from some of the big supermarkets and local producers and would urge anyone interested in donating excess stock to get in touch.”
The community shop, which is open Monday to Thursday from 9.30am to 2.30pm, Wednesday late and Friday from 9.30am to 12.30pm, is run by a team of 10 volunteers from the Big Venture Centre.
It’s the latest in a long line of initiatives the organization has launched to help feed families, building on the hugely successful Life After the Foodbank project and the WV10 Budget Cookbook.
Members benefit from access to free cooking classes to learn new skills and how to cook healthily, while the 82-page publication is packed with creative ideas on how to cook nutritious food on a budget.
Councilman Brookfield said: “As we all know, with this cost of living crisis things are going to get worse before they get better.
“I didn’t go to the Big Venture Center to celebrate the fact that community stores and food banks are needed in society. I despair of this happening in modern Britain and I will celebrate the day they all close because people can afford to make ends meet.
“But I went there to recognize and celebrate the people of this community, the volunteers who are true champions out there doing an amazing job of helping people get through these tough times.
“The City Council is working with the Big Venture Center to run this store and we want to do as much as we can to help the people of the city. Along with other volunteer groups out there, we plan to open another six or seven of these community stores across the city in the coming weeks and months.”
The opening of the community store coincided with the Big Venture Center’s fifth anniversary.
Since its inception in 2017, it has come a long way and only grown from strength to strength after becoming part of the WV10 Consortium, an umbrella organization that aims to empower small, volunteer-led community groups.
In addition to the Big Venture Centre, WV10 also includes the Bushbury Hill Community Action Group, Bushbury Hill Estate Management Board, Park Village Education Centre, Stratton Street Methodist Church Community Centre, Scotlands & Bushbury Hill Partnership and the Women & Families Resource Center ( WFRC). .
Louisa Edwards of the WV10 Consortium said: “We are so proud of the impact Big Venture has had on the area and emphasize what can be achieved when we act as a collective to leverage and provide the funding.
“During Covid-19 we have delivered over 10,000 packages to families in WV10, 8100 activity packs to young children and made 2650 phone calls to support those in need.
“We don’t stop there and our community store will help manage the rise in the cost of living and ensure more local people don’t fall into food poverty.”