A COMMUNITY store where people who are struggling can buy a food shop for just £3 could be coming to Middlesbrough.

Christian charity The Message Trust has submitted a planning application to Middlesbrough Council to build a community shop in the grounds of St Barnabas Church, situated just off Linthorpe Road.

If plans are approved, it will be one of 12 new shops the charity is hoping to roll out in the next year to add to the 11 already up and running.

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The first one was set up in September 2020 in Manchester in response to the Covid pandemic and since then stores have opened in the North East including in Hexham, Ragworth, and Redcar.

Danielle Campsall, the chief administrative officer at The Message Trust, said: “We always partner with a local church and always plan in an area of deprivation.

“We now have 11 stores and more than 10,000 members, each representing a family.

“We obviously want people to be fed and we know people are struggling because of the impact of Covid, but we also recognise that there is often a bigger need.”

Therefore, there are also courses that members can access which include debt management, exploring Christianity, healthy cooking, and IT training.

Despite being linked to the church, you don’t have to be religious to visit the shop.

Ms Campsall added: “Everyone is welcome, it’s a choice if people join the church. We also don’t ask for proof of benefits or anything like that.”

The Trussell Trust, which supports a network of food banks across the county, has said that it gave out 5,100 emergency food parcels nationwide every day between April and September this year, which is an 11% increase on the same period in 2019. 

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “Everyone in the UK should be able to afford the essentials – to buy their own food and heat their homes.

“Yet food banks in our network continue to see more and more people facing destitution with an increase in food parcels going to children. This is not right.

“Our food bank managers expect need to grow further still, saying they will need to provide more than 7,000 food parcels a day during December, as many families are faced with an even tougher winter ahead. This must stop.”

Those who wish to use the community shop in Middlesbrough would need to pay a £5 membership fee for the year.

It is then £3 per shop and you can go up to three times per week, however, if people can’t afford that then they will still be able to visit the store.

Ms Campsall said: “We have a pay it forward system, so we never turn anyone away. If somebody comes and they can’t afford membership or a shop that week then people pay it forward all of the time.

“Some of our members, who are having a better week will pay an extra £5 for someone else to become a member or an extra £3 for someone to have a free shop. We have other people who aren’t members coming into the shop to pay it forward too.

“In each shop, there is a stand with post-it notes and they have been written on by members and other people.

“The notes will say, ‘keep going’, ‘we’ll get there’, or ‘we are in this together’. If someone is really struggling they can take a post-it note to pay with and it’s not a big deal.”

The charity is hoping to open the Middlesbrough community shop on March 29, however that is a provisional date.

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