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Community Project

The Port Grocery/Wednesday Welcome

"Diverting good, healthy food from landfill and providing it to our community."

Who We Help, Why We Help & the Difference It Makes

In February 2015 we were offered donated food from M&S. It was part of their corporate plan A, no plan B. This plan was to minimise food going to landfill and offering it local charities instead. With this offer we decided to run a 5 week pilot to see how the offer of free food was received by the community. One of our local Churches, Trinity Methodist Church, didn’t open on a Wednesday and they very kindly allowed us to use the Church as our venue.

We called it Wednesday Welcome and offered a hot meal and tea, coffee and cakes. We happily went along with this for the 5 weeks and on the last Wednesday we told our guests that this would be the last day. There was so much activity on social media about not continuing that it went on until after 11 o’clock at night. The following day people came to the Church to ask why we would stop this great event. We were overwhelmed with the demand to keep it going that we said we would and 18 months on we can’t see it ever coming to an end.

Word of mouth has spread throughout the local stores and we now at the end of our 2nd year we collect from, M&S, Tesco, Bookers, Makro, Waitrose, KFC, and Nandos, Pizza Hut, Asdsa, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s, Co-op and a number of other sources that want to remain anonymous.. If fact every local supermarket along with other local retailers that are bespoke to our area. We are also members of FareShare. We collect 7 mornings, 7 tea times and 7 evenings. Over 150 collections a week. We have raised the funds for two refrigerated vans and without them we would not be able to do this. We are diverting roughly 6 tons of perfectly good food per week from landfill.

With this abundance of food we asked our community what should we do with it and they unanimously asked for a community shop.

We started researching who was doing what. We went to Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Stockport.

After much thought and planning we came up with the concept of The Port Grocery. 

Every Wednesday we offer a free meal and about 200-250 people come each week. It’s not just about food, we offer wrap around services in a subtle way using the medium of food to encourage people to engage. Our Wednesday Welcome has taken on a life of its own and is the most amazing display of community spirit and engagement. Strangers have become friends and the general talk around the town has become, don’t worry if you need anything wait till Wednesday and “they” will sort it out for you. We’re not perceived as the establishment, the local authority or Jobcentre; we’re seen as those nice people who do the food. We have Wellbeing Coordinators from all the 17 Doctors practices in Ellesmere Port. They sit at the tables and chat to our guests. We have the CWaC “Ready to Switch” team talking about reducing the cost of their utilities through a CWaC scheme. We have the Public Health team talking about general health and wellbeing, especially to young mums about immunisation

Our Services Are

Free

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We have regular visits from an Optician from Chester, Nightingales. They offer free eye tests and free decent glasses for those with no fixed abode and rough sleepers who all fall through the net. We had a chap who had had a little altercation and dislodged his eye socket. If he hadn’t of seen the optician he would have eventually lost his sight.

We have a practice nurse who will do blood pressure and blood sugars test. We have Macmillan calling in to help those suffering from cancer who may not know about all the support services available to them and using the Wednesday Welcome as a way of recruiting volunteers. We are used by DWP as a test bed for piloting changes in Welfare Reform. DWP commented that our Wednesday was the best platform for engagement they had seen. There is so much more happening as a result of the Wednesday Welcome, our free meal and food and of course the community shop. You can see why it’s crucial to have an open door policy for the community shop, people don’t feel singled out. They have a sense of responsibility, self-esteem and pride for themselves. They are shoulder to shoulder with everyone else yet dealing with many issues that until now have been unresolved.

 

Support groups have formed and we have a widows group, a diabetes group and a group of people suffering from Cancer who support each other through these very hard times. We encourage people with the same or similar conditions to talk to each other.

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