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Warrington Food Network

CCF has always supported food provision in Cheshire and Warrington food banks, social supermarkets, holiday hunger clubs etc, directly funding projects to the tune of over £450K since our grant-making debut in 2012.

As food poverty rose up the agenda during covid, we recognised that a more strategic approach was needed. In Warrington alone, there are seventeen food partners all involved in the delivery of emergency food provision.

We needed to avoid overlap and identify gaps in provision to ensure that our most disadvantaged communities didn’t go hungry.

Having seen how well the approach worked in Cheshire West, CCF agreed with Warrington Borough Council to each contribute £45,000 to jointly fund a food co-ordinator for 3 years.

Caitlin Bold has been in post for over 18 months now, and when I asked to sum up the difference her role was making. She said, “I’ve got all the food providers working much more closely together, we meet every 6-8 weeks and they’re all talking to one another in the interim, sharing both food and best practice. It’s a much more joined up approach.”

Clearly, whilst it’s essential to make sure no-one goes hungry, dependence on emergency food provision is not ideal in the long term.

Thanks to the generosity of a number of our donors in Warrington, and championed by Chris Purslow, a member of the Cheshire 100 and Chair of the Warrington Impact Group, the next step was a Mobile Supermarket for Warrington.

It’s operated by an organisation called The Bread and Butter Thing who fill 9 refrigerated vans with food from a central warehouse, storage and packing facility complete with industrial chillers and freezers. Very importantly, this food is surplus provision from local food manufacturers which might otherwise have been thrown away, so it both reduces waste and does not draw on existing resources. One of these 9 vans now serves Warrington.

‘Our’ van can deliver 5 days per week to hubs, established by Caitlin, in areas she described as ‘food deserts’ where little or no food provision was previously available.

Once delivered to the hub, volunteers repack the food into 3 nutritionally balanced bags, valued at approx £30 and sold for £7.50 so customers can afford to buy, with dignity, varied and high quality food including chilled items, fresh fruit and veg. Caitlin has encouraged support agencies to be at the hubs when the food is delivered, so customers can access wrap around services like mental health support and debt advice. It really is a fantastic service.

About 80% of service users come from the streets surrounding the distribution hubs and most will walk to collect their shopping, saving them bus fares and helping them to meet people locally.

This project currently provides support to 300 hard-pressed households in Warrington every week, rising to 400 when fully established. It doesn’t just feed people it also nourishes their community and provides a stepping-stone on the journey out of food poverty.

Our success in Warrington has now led to us working with Cheshire East Council to jointly fund a Food Coordinator there, a great example of how our work in one part of Cheshire can improve outcomes in another.