Angus’ first social supermarket, S-Mart played a vital role in guiding its community through the pandemic but now faces a new challenge as the cost-of-living crisis continues.
Situated on Forfar West High Street, S-Mart was established by Community FirstUK as a social hub for those requiring a little extra help with their shopping.
Supporting fellow community driven initiatives such as the creation of Kirrie Food Hub and acting as a conduit for Foodshare during the pandemic’s harshest restrictions, S-Mart has become a pillar of the local area.
It plays a vital role in ensuring those struggling most within the community can receive good produce. The team provide a judgement free environment and support to those most in need.
Following on from their role in servicing the community during lockdown, CEO Pauline Lockhart believes their job is far from over.
She said: ““Our footfall has increased and our food is depleting. We have seen that since the wind down of COVID.
“As a social enterprise we rely on a sustainable model and being able to access further funding is a key thing.
“We have great community buy-in and businesses who support us. But we do need more help.”
Cost of living crisis
Money is stretched beyond belief in homes across the county with many families forced to choose between food and warmth.
The revelation that interest rates could soar to 7.25% in April will only further the need for social enterprises like S-Mart.
From as early as April 2022 the team at S-Mart have witnessed a dramatic upturn in footfall.
“This time last year our fridges and freezers were choc-a-bloc whereas now we need more company buy-in to meet demand.
“We take in surplus goods, there is a small best before section, then everything else is surplus.
“This is a challenge however to get more donations to help provide enough stock.”
The importance of removing stigma and judgment from social enterprises like this is at the forefront of S-Mart’s intention.
Pauline said: “Our model is different. We don’t want to be seen as a foodbank. We have all sorts of demographics coming in.
“What we are finding is that more and more people in employment are signing up. You might think this wouldn’t be the case but this is impacting everyone.”
With the cost of living crisis on display in every community around the country it is no surprise to see a call for more social supermarkets.
The heightened need for produce has been reflected in a staffing increase. S-Mart now boasts a roster of eight full-time members of staff alongside 10 volunteers.
With local students from Forfar Academy regularly completing work placements too.
However a shortage in donations and a need for further support from big business threatens to let demand overwhelm the project.
“We are overwhelmed, our store room used to be full right to the roof and now it’s half empty.
“Whilst we are purchasing food we are reliant on the monetary donations coming in that will support us to subsidise the costs,” said Pauline.
With plans to open one in Brechin well underway, the desire is there to open all over Angus.
“People from other towns are coming in and asking if we will be doing this in their town.
“The premises in Brechin should create two new employment opportunities and give those struggling within the community a new option,” added Pauline.
Unlike many supermarkets S-Mart offers even the smallest of options, from one potato to individual sachets of sauce, in an attempt to reduce food wastage.
Last year alone they prevented 300 tons of food waste and recruited 2,000 members to their fight.