S-Mart social supermarket has been vital during the last 12 months, but it was planned before Covid-19 and will continue its great work long after the virus has gone.
Without a doubt S-Mart, Angus’s first social supermarket, based in Forfar’s West High Street, has been one of the area’s lockdown heroes.
When the first coronavirus lockdown hit, between April and July last year, their work saw the largest community food effort in the county supporting people with more than 35,000 meals.
Community FirstUK, the organisation behind S-Mart, was recognised by Fareshare as one of the four emergency food providers in Angus.
They were instrumental in supporting the creation of the Kirrie Food Hub as well as being Foodshare’s Angus distribution depot supporting many other grassroots organisations in the area when travel restrictions were in force.
However, food poverty and food insecurity isn’t just an issue borne out of Covid-19 and plans for a social supermarket addressing these issues were already well under way when the pandemic hit.
Pauline Lockhart, co-founder of Community FirstUK, said: “Poverty has been on the rise in Angus for many years, dependency on emergency financial and food support has increased year on year and we wanted to find a way to help alleviate those pressures.
“Since Community FirstUK began in 2016, it has been one of the areas of community support we have been most passionate about.”
“Having been single mums ourselves,” added fellow co-founder Carol Malone, “We know first-hand the difficulties parents face when money is tight.
“We couldn’t do much about low wages or high unemployment but what we could do was make food affordable so that people’s money went further. In 2019 we began working in earnest to create access to food that had choice, dignity and community at its heart.
“We wanted to help people out before they got to crisis point by maximising their incomes and give them a positive experience around food.”
We are committed to tackling #foodwaste and giving perfectly good food (over 700kg of it this week!) a second chance to feed families and individuals at a reduced cost.
S-Mart provides highly discounted goods with up to 50% less than you would pay in mainstream supermarkets and in this time of such uncertainty, Angus’s first social supermarket could not have come at a better time.
They are open to anyone which means no means testing or need for referrals, the S-Mart’s discounted goods are open to everyone and anyone.
So, why is it open to everyone and not just those struggling?
“Well, it’s about dignity,” added Pauline. “There is a high proportion of people who are in work but have low incomes, this is known as ‘in work poverty’.”
Research, statistics and feedback show that people don’t want hand-outs, they need help but often there is a stigma associated with asking for help.
They also don’t want to have to explain why they need help.
Carol added: “With the best will in the world, despite the good intentions and amazing work foodbanks do, there is a huge amount of stigma associated with them and other similar food support organisations.
“You have to have explained your circumstances several times over before you even get allocated a voucher and then when you get to a foodbank, you only get three days’ worth of dried and tinned goods which has been pre-chosen for you.
“You can only access this six times over a year which means you can only go once every two months. There are huge misconceptions about people who have to use foodbanks and this pandemic has, in many ways, been a huge leveller opening people’s eyes to what it means to have to ask for help.”
Another fabulous donation from The Corn Kist Coffee House at Milton Haugh. Duck burgers and their homemade vegetable soup. 😋😋😋😋Open Sat 9 – 1pmMon 9 – 1pmTues 9 – 3pmFriday 9 – 5pm
Pauline continued: “As one of our regular customers said: ‘We are all just one crisis away from being in the same position’.
“People want the dignity of choosing their own food, we all know how fussy children can be but there’s the health issue of allergies, intolerance to certain foods and whether you are a vegetarian, vegan etc.
“By creating an environment where people have access to a variety of goods you would find in any shop and allowing people to shop as often as they want, you create an environment of normality and from that normality you eliminate stigma.
“You might come in because you care about the environment, you may want to use us because you’re on a very tight budget and because we are a social enterprise.
“All profits go back into the organisation ensuring the continuation of projects and initiative in Angus, so you have people who shop in S-Mart because they know they are supporting their community.
“By making it open to anyone, you’re ensuring those who are experiencing food insecurity or have low incomes have anonymity.”
Huuuuuuuuge selection in store today!!Open from 1-5pm today.
The sustainable model is proving to be so popular that the body is being approached by organisations across the country asking for an S-Mart to be set up in their town.
“We’ve had enquiries from places in Kent, Nottingham and Bristol. In the coming months, however, there are to be two new developments happening closer to home as well as an exciting collaboration between Community First and Ladyloan Primary School in Arbroath,” revealed Pauline.
“The Ladyloan initiative is such an exciting project because it’s going to offer up so many learning opportunities for the children and because S-Mart is about tackling food insecurity and food waste, having a mini S-Mart right in the heart of the school means children will have the opportunity to learn about both as well as raise funds for their school.”
Community FirstUK is delighted to have also just been awarded Communities Lottery Funding to develop the Forfar social supermarket into a retail, training and community hub providing up to 20 jobs, opportunities for apprentices, training, and volunteer options over the next two years.
“We’re absolutely thrilled with how our local community, including local businesses, really get what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. This understanding and support have meant we’re able to reach the people who really need support,” continued Pauline.
We’ve been able to save large amounts of food from the bin by freezing it before it expired. Shop with us to help…
“We’re more than happy to speak to anyone interested in starting a S-Mart in their community whether that be a standalone shop or the school model like Ladyloan.”
Anyone interested in contacting Carol or Pauline can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and for more information on the social supermarket, how you can take advantage of the discounted goods or how to make a donation, go to www.s-martscot.com