Cambridge City Foodbank expands food poverty support with new Fairbite shop in East Chesterton

16th March 2022

Cambridge City Foodbank has opened a second Fairbite shop, located in East Chesterton and run in partnership with the Hope Church.

Since April 2020, Hope Church has been running a Community Food Hub, supported by Cambridge Sustainable Food and Cambridge Food Poverty Alliance, with 40-50 households regularly using the service. Moving on from the initial COVID-19 emergency response, the Food Hub will now operate under the Fairbite model. Reverend Andy Atkins, Hope Church, comments: “We are excited to be taking this next step, as it feels like the right time for us to move to this new way of helping people as we move out of the emergency phase of the pandemic. And we are thankful to Cambridge Sustainable Food for the support, and for the partnership and co-operation with the network of Community Food Hubs in the city”.

Fairbite is a service offered by Cambridge City Foodbank, designed to provide longer-term support for people experiencing food poverty, while they work through often complex challenges to regain their independence. The first Fairbite shop opened in Arbury Court in 2018 and was expanded in August 2021, in order to provide greater access and provision of food and essential items to people in the area.

Fairbite is different to a regular Foodbank and operates a membership model, whereby people pay a small membership fee – £2 per visit – to come into the shop and select up to 10 essential items, like pasta, rice and other dry goods, plus fresh fruit and vegetables, and extras like sanitary products. The £2 contribution gives people a sense of ownership and ensures they can access food and essentials without loss of dignity.

Like Cambridge City Foodbank’s regular Foodbank centres, visitors must be referred to access Fairbite by one of the Foodbank’s partner agencies – for example Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) and Family Support workers. The referral process helps to ensure the service is available for those most in need, while enabling the Foodbank to plan and control stock levels so it can provide plenty of choice for all visitors.

Signposting is also a key objective for Fairbite. Through conversations, volunteers can signpost members to the relevant local support services they need to regain their independence, for example: debt advice, legal help, housing and energy bills advice, mental health support or benefits guidance.

Margaret Saner, CEO of Cambridge City Foodbank, comments: “Since we opened our first Fairbite in Arbury Court, we have been carefully monitoring the level of need and the value of the initiative. The pandemic has negatively impacted many families in Cambridge and the demand for the Foodbank and other support services continues to be high. We know that Fairbite has helped to fill a desperate need in Arbury and it is now part of our strategy to open further Fairbite shops in areas of need across the city to support even more people who are experiencing food poverty long-term.

“We are pleased to be able to open our second Fairbite shop, in partnership with the Hope Church, which previously operated a Food Hub. Providing access to support, beyond just food, is essential for helping people out of poverty and, at both the Arbury Court Fairbite and now at Hope Fairbite, signposting support for members is a top priority so we will be creating space for different services to come and talk to visitors.”

Reminiscing on the early days, Reverend Andy remembered how “the community was galvanised into forming the Chesterton Mutual Aid Group” and how those volunteers helped the church to set up the Food Hub, collecting food and making deliveries of food parcels to residents who were not able to collect it: “In the midst of the emergency, social bonds and community were formed”.

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