The People's Pantry in Govanhill is a membership-led shop, offering great quality food at a subsidised rate to people living in Glasgow's G41 and G42 postcodes. They're keen not only to support access to food here in Glasgow, but also to support economic justice for growers and producers elsewhere - so they highlight Fairtrade food as a great way to achieve this, and have been taking part in Fairtrade Fortnight for the past couple of weeks. Read on to find out more about the People's Pantry!
1. Tell us about how it all started.
The Director of Govanhill Baths Community Trust, Fatima Uygun, came up with the idea of having a pantry in the new Govanhill Baths building as a pragmatic way to address food inequalities in Govanhill. The Pantry was in the research and community consultation stages when the Covid-19 pandemic began. As the already huge need for food support in Govanhill increased, it was decided to start the Pantry a bit earlier, and we opened our doors last September at 488 Cathcart Road.
Pantries are fairly new to Scotland, but have been popular in North America since the 80s, and increasingly common in England since 2014. Like many, The People’s Pantry runs with a membership scheme. Anyone who feels they need support with food is welcome to join for £3.50 a year, and can then do a weekly shop for £2.50. This £2.50 buys a minimum of £15 worth of food, and the pantry always has a good range of fruit and veg, fresh and frozen items, store cupboard, and household items.
2. How many people are involved in your organisation?
Govanhill Baths has a huge range of exciting projects on the go, from social enterprises like Rags to Riches and the Uphub, who repurpose discarded wood, plastic, and textiles, to its Youth Club that programmes an exciting range of activities for young people.
The People’s Pantry is one of the Baths newer projects and is run by a small staff team, lots of fantastic volunteers, and in discussion with 220 members, who help us to improve the pantry as we go. It’s very much a community shop, and we hope as coronavirus restrictions are relaxed that the members will have an increasing role in running the pantry and deciding its direction.
Ailsa and Inga with some of the cupboard staples stocked at the People's Pantry
3. Tell us about the people you are helping
Anyone who wants to is welcome to join the Pantry, and a huge variety of people have become members. As the weeks have passed we’ve all got to know each other a bit more, and it’s lovely to hear everyone’s news and recipe ideas when they come in for their weekly shop.
There are many reasons why a rapidly growing number of people need support with food, including zero hours contracts, rising living costs, the minimum wage, having no recourse to public funds, and a benefits system which often leaves people short of enough money to live on, enforcing inequality, and creating stress, debt, ill-health, and uncertainty.All these factors have only been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
4. How can Fairtrade make a difference to people’s lives?
We want to support food justice across the whole food system, and don’t want to address food inequalities in Scotland at the expense of producers and workers. Everyone has a right to dignified access to culturally appropriate food, and everyone has a right to fair working conditions, and we see Fair Trade as a vital way to address this.
We are hugely in support of the Good Food Nation Bill and want to see issues across the food system addressed as a whole. Since we have opened we’ve been working to improve the sourcing of our produce, and are keen to work with more local growers and source more ethical and sustainable produce. Fair Trade is a very important part of that, and we feel very grateful to have a new range of products from Greencity Wholefoods at the Pantry.
A selection of weekly shop items, including Fairtrade products
5. What steps need to be taken to improve people’s health?
There are so many barriers to people having good health, and although food is only one aspect, we feel it’s a very important one. It’s long been known that having access to good quality foods can have a huge impact on physical health, but in the last 15 years it’s become increasingly recognised that food also has a huge impact on mental wellbeing. As a health and wellbeing charity, Govanhill Baths wants to work with people so they can take more control over their diet and food system.
The Pantry is still in its initial stages, but we’re starting a community programme later this year around growing, cooking, art, and wellbeing, which will be open to both Pantry members and the rest of the community. Running through all of this will be discussions around the Right to Food.
The Government already has not just a moral, but a legal obligation under international law to provide people with dignified access to culturally appropriate food, and we believe it’s completely unacceptable for the Government to rely on charities to provide this. We hope that if the Right to Food becomes enshrined in Scottish law it will lead to some really positive changes.
6. You can pick one chef to come and work with you, who is it and why?
What a question! After a lot of thought, we’ve decided we’d like a visit from Jekka McVicar, a chef and grower who specialises in herbs. We’re starting a wee herb garden at the back of the pantry this spring so that members can have some freshly cut herbs with their weekly shop.
I’m always amazed how using herbs can really transform and add flavour to simple ingredients, and we’re keen to try growing some herbs that you wouldn’t normally find in a supermarket and get cooking!