How Tunbridge Wells food larders help people to cope with cost of living crisis

How Tunbridge Wells food larders help people to cope with cost of living crisis

Food larders are different to food banks, which are normally registered charities, as anyone can visit without a referral.

The larders were first introduced in order to cut down on food waste and help those struggling to buy necessary supplies by offering surplus short-dated food from different supermarkets along with other donations from local people and businesses.

There are at least six community food larders that run each week in Tunbridge Wells and surrounding areas.

They are open to anyone in the local community and are usually run by churches as they can offer premises. They usually ask for a small donation of £2-3 to fill a whole shopping bag.

Volunteers from around Rusthall including the Rusthall URC collect trays from big name supermarkets like Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer and Lidl at a vastly reduced price.

They also have a weekly delivery from charity organisation FareShare every Thursday. The aim is to break even and not make profit, and the cost of the trays are covered by the £2 donation made by customers.

Mary Nolze has been volunteering at Rusthall’s larder since it first opened back in January 2021. She believes there are three vital things for a food larder to run: premises, volunteers and suppliers.

She told the Times: “We never know what we will receive each week and how much.

“FareShare can be unpredictable and recently there’s been a decrease in how much we’re given. If this carries on we may have to increase our donation price.”

Each week there’s a range of visitors, often regular customers as well as some Ukranian newcomers.

Mary has seen an increase in people using the services in the past two to three months as the cost of living crisis has continue to hit people.

“We don’t ask questions, we are welcoming to everyone and have to adapt to an ever-changing situation,” Mary said.

The community larder at St Matt’s Church, in High Brooms Road, has been running since November 2020.

It started as an opportunity to help people struggling through lockdown but over the past two years, they have seen a continued need for the larder and something temporary became permanent with over 90 visitors last week and a general turnout of 75-80 people.

The food larder also buys from Fareshare and collects from seven different supermarkets.

Jan Anderson who runs the larder said: “Supermarkets have become better with their stock control so there is less waste from them which is good, but we had to start buying supplementary goods in the last five to six months because £2 doesn’t cover the costs.

“We have a range of people that use St Matt’s larder, there’s extra at the end of the month.

“You can’t judge people’s circumstances by looking at them, just hear out their story and try to help the best you can.”

St Philip’s Church in Birken Road opened their larder in April 2020 and have 15 volunteers and is used by over 70 people each week.

Lisa Glasscote, who is in charge of the larder, said: “This time last year we had around 50 or 60 visitors, this seems like a small increase but most people are collecting for families so they could be feeding up to seven people.

“We want people to know we’re here to help. We are able to give advice on recipes as they choose what they want so there’s less that goes to waste.

“In the last six months we had to increase our donation price to £3 because we are getting less for our money.

“I spend about £150 a week to buy stuff in. There’s £40 worth of groceries in a £3 bag. We aim to collect 80 trays a week from FareShare but we only get about half.”


The Tunbridge Wells Baptist Church: Tuesdays 1pm-2.30pm.

St Philip’s Church, Tuesdays 12-1pm.

St Mark’s and King Charles the Martyr : Wednesday afternoons.

Christ Church Southborough, Thursdays 12-1pm.

St Matt’s Church in High Brooms: Fridays 9.30-10.45.

St Paul’s Church Centre in Rusthall, Fridays 12.30-2.15pm.

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