Hastings community cafe and food store’s bid to tackle loneliness

Debby Anderson, manager, and volunteers Tamara Gardner, Jane Hawkins and John Watson at The Pantry SUS-190503-155212001
Debby Anderson, manager, and volunteers Tamara Gardner, Jane Hawkins and John Watson at The Pantry SUS-190503-155212001

A community food store in town has given its backing to our Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign.

The Pantry, in Middle Street, runs a volunteer-led community cafe as well as supplying donated groceries to those in need.

It plans to move to larger premises with the intention of developing them into a community hub to tackle social isolation and loneliness for all ages, from seniors through to single parents.

Debby Anderson, manager of The Pantry, said: “Although we are mainly a community food store, tackling loneliness and reducing social isolation is very much a part of what we do.

“We’ve been open for six months and the cafe is an area where people can come and chat in comfort.

“Loneliness and social isolation is very much a problem in this town and it affects all age groups. The people who we see are aged anywhere from 18 to 80.

“We have a rolling membership of around 50 people.

“This is our first community space and we are now working with several other agencies in order to equip a larger premises to create a community hub for those who are socially isolated.

“We’re hoping to start moving forward with this project very shortly. We hope to provide additional services, such as breakfast clubs, holiday hunger programmes, diabetes support, activities for older people, as well as inter-generational ones too.

Debby said she believed the problem has got worse in Hastings and St Leonards in the last few years, citing poverty and deprivation as the main reason.

She said the rollout of Universal Credit was putting a ‘huge amount of pressure’ on many people, who were struggling to make ends meet.

Debby added: “We’ve had families coming here struggling to feed their children.”

As well as providing food, The Pantry offers a hot meal for people, with a suggested donation of £1.

The Pantry is run by Education Training Consortium Sussex (etc Sussex), which offers training and education needs of people from marginalised communities, and funded by Sussex Community Foundation, Hastings and St Leonards Food Project and Awards for All.