MIDDLESBROUGH Council has approved plans for a community store where struggling Teessiders can buy a food shop for just £3.

The new store will be opening in a building in the grounds of St Barnabas Church, just off Linthorpe Road.

Christain charity The Message Trust is behind the initiative and set up its first shop in Manchester in September 2020 in response to the covid pandemic.

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Across the North East, it now has stores in Hexham, Ragworth, and Redcar.

Speaking in November, 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.”

For those wanting to use the community shop, they will need to pay a membership fee of £5 per year, and then it is £3 per shop and people can go up to three times per week.

However, if shoppers can’t afford to pay for the membership fee or the £3 then they will still be able to pick up food.

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.

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“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 initiative isn’t just about ensuring people have access to food, there will also be a number of courses that members can access which include debt management, exploring Christianity, healthy cooking, and IT training.

Everyone is welcome at the shop and the courses and you do not need to be religious to sign up or attend the church.

Visitors will also not be asked to provide proof of benefits to shop at the store.

One of the conditions of the council’s approval is that the store can only be open between 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Saturday and must close on Sundays and Bank Holidays.

Deliveries can only take place between 8am to 6pm Monday to Saturday.

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