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New community larder in Newbury’s Waterside Centre to tackle food poverty in West Berkshire

The Waterside Centre in Newbury is now home to a new community larder, which will be open to the public in late January.

Working with charity Sofea, the larder which will officially open on January 26, follows successful larders that have already been established in Thatcham and Greenham.

Berkshire Youth held a ‘mock larder’ on January 11 to showcase what will be on offer.

The Newbury Community Larder volunteers.
The Newbury Community Larder volunteers.

The service, which is not means tested, will be an opportunity for people to find fresh fruit and vegetables, and access support - all under one monthly membership cost.

With so much food going to landfill, Sofea will see that surplus food is used, benefitting the environment and feeding those who need it.

The mock larder featured a variety of fresh fruits and veg from mangoes and plums to carrots and peppers.

Volunteers getting the everything ready for the mock larder.
Volunteers getting the everything ready for the mock larder.

There were also household items and non-perishable foods, from toothpaste to pasta, tinned soups and biscuits - including a space dedicated to vegan products.

Operations director Sarah Emery said that she hopes the larder becomes a “hub” for the community.

She said: “It is about supporting the community that young people are a part of, their families, parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles.

“This building is about the community supporting young people; we have to have everything surrounding them supported as well.

Lucy Honour and Sarah Emery from Berkshire Youth.
Lucy Honour and Sarah Emery from Berkshire Youth.

“What we really want is for our community to find their feet a little bit more.”

She said that food poverty in West Berkshire is sometimes sadly overlooked.

“If you are poor in West Berkshire, your social mobility is very poor," she added.

Volunteers making final touches to the larder before it opens.
Volunteers making final touches to the larder before it opens.

“We have professional nurses and teachers, who cannot afford to keep their households going.”

She went on to say: “During summer we had 70 [young people] a day here, many of whom were needing lunch and were free school meals children.

“We felt people need a hand up. We needed these families in crisis to know foodbanks are there to support them.”

Volunteers at The Waterside Centre before the mock larder opened.
Volunteers at The Waterside Centre before the mock larder opened.

The larder is also an opportunity for students to get to grips with professional environments, setting them up for university and work later on in life.

“For the 13 students from Newbury College, it is a great experience for them, volunteering and getting used to working environment," she said.

“We always need more volunteers, we are hoping it will grow.”

Holding weekly community larders at the Waterside Centre will also allow people to shop for food, grab a coffee and learn about new recipes through greater accessibility of fresh foods.

“We have mangos and butternut squash here, but do people know what a raw, whole mango actually looks like? They may think what is it and what do I do with it?" Ms Emery added.

“I have been talking with people today and we have just come up with four or five ways to use plums. We have people here who can say 'well this is what I would do'.”

Volunteer, Lucy Honour recently joined Berkshire Youth through their Kickstart Scheme and is now the “contact point” for those who want to get involved with the larder.

Setting up the memberships, she said that she loves supporting people and has always been “fascinated” by mental health work.

She said: “I was working with young adults with learning difficulties for a few years; I wanted to do something more challenging.

“I’ve always been fascinated by mental health, due to Covid, it has increased, it’s so scary how many people suffer.

“I have always had an interest in supporting people. I love it, I literally love it.”

For now, the main focus is building up memberships and “bringing the community together”.

She added: “We are hoping to get more people to sign up and see how many people we can bring in.

“It’s amazing to know that you are making a difference in those who are financially struggling, it’s more a hand up than a hand out.”

The larder will be open every Tuesday, 2pm – 4pm from January 26 onwards.

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