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Giving surplus food social purpose


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The UK’s first full-scale social supermarket opens today

Giving surplus food social purpose

The UK’s first full-scale social supermarket opens today – selling low-cost, high-quality surplus food to hundreds of people on income support while helping them back into work.

Community Shop in West Norwood, Lambeth, London, is backed by Mayor of London Boris Johnson. The Mayor, whose team, headed by Rosie Boycott, chair of the London Food Board, has helped find the premises in the capital, said Community Shop was a “sterling example of social enterprise and private organisations working together to create positive outcomes”.

Its model was also specifically highlighted by the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom in its “Feeding Britain” report as one that should be developed to “make a real and positive difference to people’s living standards”.

Community  Shop will work on a membership basis. There will be 750 members, all living locally and on income support. Members can shop for surplus food at 70 per cent cheaper than usual prices, from leading supermarkets, other major retailers and top brands, including Marks and Spencer, Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, The Co-operative, Ocado, Innocent, Brake Brothers, Nestlé and Muller.

While pressure on family budgets is eased through access to cheaper food, members also enrol on a tailored professional development programme – called The Success Plan – which aims to raise members’ self-confidence and job prospects.

Working with a team of professional mentors and drawing on support from local services in the store’s “hub”, they will be given help to identify the areas of their lives they need to work on, and then agree a roadmap to make improvements and kick-start positive change in their lives. These areas might be:

  • Confidence-building and resilience
  • Debt advice and home budgeting training
  • Cooking skills, including how to cook wholesome food on a budget. A chef will be working in the hub every day.
  • CV-writing skills and job interview practice

Whatever a member’s personal circumstances, Community Shop is committed to empowering individuals, and building stronger families and communities. The services are funded from revenue raised by the sale of the food – showing how surplus food can achieve powerful positive social impact.

The London store marks the start of the national roll-out programme after the success of a pilot store (for 500 members) which opened in Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire, in December last year – where one in five of those members who have completed training (which started four months after opening) have already found work.

It is estimated that around 3.5 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK, before it even reaches people’s shopping basket, with about 10 per cent of that figure good enough to be eaten – because it is simply in damaged packaging or has been mislabelled. In other cases, food has simply been over-ordered. But instead of being used to feed people, some of this surplus is sent to landfill, fed to animals, or turned into energy through anaerobic digestion. Community Shop demonstrates why this need not be the case.

The Lambeth store is the first in Community Shop’s plans to open 20 more stores across the country, with a number of locations already in the pipeline.  Together they will directly support around 20,000 people nationwide (and have a knock-on benefit to around 50,000 family members) and step up to deal with two of the biggest problems we face: food waste and food poverty. 

Community Shop is part of the Company Shop Group, which has always been about doing business differently; looking at challenges in the UK supply chain and finding ways to solve them whilst delivering positive social, environmental and economic impact.

John Marren, Chairman of Company Shop Group, said:

“Community Shop is tackling the problem of surplus food, whilst giving it real social purpose.

“Not only do we offer high-quality low-cost food to people experiencing tough times, but we provide them with the chance to take up support services because they are motivated to do better. 

“Members can shop for good food at great prices, which eases pressure on their family budgets, and they will also access tailored, professional development programmes, to kick-start positive change in their own lives. 

“The support we have had from retailers and brands, from Lambeth Council, Rosie Boycott, the London Food Board, the GLA and of course from the Mayor of London, has been fantastic and demonstrates the real need and support for a project like this in London and beyond.” 

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said:

“I welcome the arrival of Community Shop's first store in London. This is a sterling example of social enterprise and private organisations working together to create positive outcomes. We hope this is the first in a chain of outlets in the capital that will provide access to affordable food for people struggling to make ends meet whilst providing help back into work.”


Leader of Lambeth Council, Councillor Lib Peck, said:

“The Community Shop is a fantastic initiative which makes a very real difference to people’s lives.  We’re only too aware how difficult it has become for hundreds of families living on the breadline with rising costs over the last few years and the Community Shop will prove to be a lifeline for many.

“The Community Shop does a great job of matching up perfectly good surplus food with those who need it.  But it’s not only about food – it’s about making communities that bit fairer and supporting those people who need a little bit of extra help. That’s why we’re happy to facilitate the Community Shop in Lambeth.”


Steven Butts, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Morrisons, said:

“We’re delighted to see a Community Shop in the heart of London and expect that it will provide a great local service as well as wider life-skills opportunities for local people through its linked training programmes.”


Greg Sage, Community Director for Tesco, said:

“The Barnsley pilot has been a great addition to the local community and we’re looking forward to working with Community Shop on their future plans for more social supermarkets in more communities.

“We are donating surplus food from our distribution networks and dotcom centres to Community Shop Through our Neighbourhood Food Collections we have been active in helping to relieve food poverty in partnership with Trussell Trust and FareShare. We also understand that there isn’t one solution, and that the issue needs to be tackled through innovation and collaboration.”


Gavin Chappell, VP Supply Chain and eCommerce at Asda, said: 

“We are really committed to reducing both food waste and food poverty in this country, and Community Shop is a way of not only doing that but also about creating new customers as they come out of the Community Shop process and go back in to mainstream retailing.”


Fiona Kendrick, Chairman and CEO of Nestlé UK and Ireland, said:

“As a continued supporter of the Community Shops model, we are very pleased that the first full-scale social supermarket is now open – this is a hugely positive initiative.

“At Nestlé, we understand that minimising food waste is essential to the continued success of our business. Supporting sustainable local communities is one of our key priorities and by ensuring good, fit for purpose food is not wasted we can also continue to focus on our ‘zero waste to landfill’ goal.”


Suzanne Westlake, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Ocado, said:

“Community Shop is unique. The fact that it is addressing the root cause and helping people along the way, rather than just offering low-cost food, is fantastic and Ocado is delighted to be partnering with it.”


Steve Rowe, Executive Director, Food at M&S, said: 

“We have been working with Company Shop for 15 years and supported Community Shop since it opened. We have seen first-hand the positive social impact it has. We believe supporting communities in this way is the right thing to do – working with Community Shop ensures our stores, depots and suppliers are contributing to the crucial support given to those most in need, whilst putting any surplus food to the best possible use.”


Sir Jonathan Porritt, Founder Director of Forum for the Future, said:

“It’s brilliant that Community Shop will be opening its first full social supermarket in Lambeth. This is now a tried and tested business model, bringing significant benefits to local communities, to the food companies involved, and to the huge number of citizens now able to benefit from this highly creative way of avoiding waste in the food chain.”


Tristram Stuart, author, activist and founder of the environmental campaigning organisation Feedback, said:           

“Like those behind Community Shop, I have seen the huge amounts of food wasted every single day in Britain – before it even reaches people’s shopping baskets. 

“We must all do more if we are to change our attitude to wasting food, and the pioneering Community Shop project is leading by example by tackling the problem of surplus food by giving it social purpose.

“In not only selling food which would otherwise have gone to waste, but working to educate people about where the food they can buy has come from, they are transforming our approach to food and restoring its value.”



Community Shop

Community Shop is a form of social supermarket but goes considerably further than the European model. Community Shop has developed the idea so that personal development support is offered alongside high-quality low-cost food, and there are significant environmental benefits. The revenue from the food we sell enables that extra support to be delivered by our team. 

The Lambeth store will be open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, for members only.

It will sell a range of products from its suppliers, just as one would find in any other supermarket, except for alcohol and tobacco.


Members of the Lambeth Community Shop – in Vale Street, West Norwood, Lambeth – need to meet three important criteria, to make sure support reaches the right people. 

1. live in a specific area, chosen in line with the Government indices of deprivation. West Norwood Station and Gipsy Hill Station both fall within the area.

2. live in a household that receives some form of Government income support.

3. and most importantly, are motivated to make positive change in their lives, and want to sign up to the development programme. 

Membership will be offered for six months, reviewed towards the end of this period. Members update staff on their status on a regular basis.


The pilot store

At the pilot store in Goldthorpe, one of the most deprived boroughs in the UK, there are 500 members. Already:

  • One in five of those who have completed training (which started four months after opening) have been able to find employment
  • Over three-quarters say they feel more positive about their future
  • More than 600 hours of training has been given to members
  • Close working partnerships have been forged with 23 local organisations, to the benefit of members.

The development programme is called The Success Plan. It is made up of classes and workshops covering self-confidence, debt and finance, life and career planning and how to do well at an interview. After completing it, members can train as peer mentors to support others, progress to an intensive two-week programme that concludes with an interview with a local employer, or they can sign up for a business insight course. This course, called “Work Works”, aims to help people move into the world of work, or start their own business.


Case studies

  • Sally noticed Community Shop when the pilot store opened in Goldthorpe in December 2013. As a single parent, she had often struggled to make ends meet. She never had any money left over after she paid for the weekly shop and bills. She would also struggle to find enough money to pay for her daughter’s extra-curricular activities. But Sally has taken full advantage of the courses and development programmes on offer at Community Shop. She has completed training in self-confidence, debt and money management, employment mapping, and CV and interview technique. After this, Community Shop’s one-to-one mentors supported Sally to set up her own beauty business. Her goal for the future is now to grow her company to secure her daughter a better life.


  • Tony found out about Community Shop through his family. In tough times, he was finding it really hard to find work. Debt was mounting and he was struggling to manage. Things are still tight, but thanks to Community Shop, the pressure on his finances is now starting to ease. Community Shop has supported Tony to take control of his debts, helping him to contact creditors and arrange alternative repayment options. With Community Shop’s support, he is facing his challenges head on and sorting out his finances. Tony is now working with Citizens Advice Bureau and Wiseability and has also completed the ‘Success Plan’. Access to Community Shop support and discounted food is freeing up Tony’s budget and having a transformative impact on his life. He’s been amazed at the savings on the cost of everyday goods at Community Shop, and has also really benefited from having somewhere to socialise while working through his personal development programmes. He now hopes that with the support of Community Shop, he can further develop his skills and manage his debts more effectively.


Surplus food

We estimate that around 3.5 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK, before it even reaches people’s shopping baskets. Much of that surplus is unavoidable – but as much as 10 per cent of it can be eaten rather than go to landfill, fed to animals or turned into energy through anaerobic digestion, because the food has simply been mislabelled, is in damaged packaging or over-ordered.

Community Shop, and Company Shop, provide a real alternative for the food industry. We help tackle surplus, whilst having clear social impact. So we are proving that the model works and that’s why we’re expanding it.

About Company Shop Group

Community Shop is part of the Company Shop Group, established in 1985.  Company Shop is the UK’s largest redistributor of surplus food - based in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, it provides a sustainable approach to tackling the inevitable surpluses produced in the UK food supply chain, stopping perfectly edible food from going to waste. 

Working with Britain’s biggest retailers, brands, manufacturers, producers and growers to make redistribution simple, Company Shop Group diverted over 30,000 tonnes of food from landfill in the last year alone, and in doing so is helping the food sector reduce its environmental impact, whilst having social impact.

All stock sold in Company Shop and Community Shop stores is within date and wholesome. Company Shop holds the highest food safety accreditation standards.

For more information, visit 


Notes to editors 

To support the Community Shop, Lambeth Council has:

  • Found a location in an unused building
  • Agreed a heavily discounted rent
  • Worked with planning to secure relevant permissions
  • Offered various officer support
  • Lambeth will also provide appropriate referrals to the shop 

The Community Shop is part of Lambeth’s Food Flagship Programme and the council’s work with the Greater London Authority. Lambeth Council is:

  • Putting together a dedicated team to improve the whole food system in Lambeth
  • Working closely with schools to implement the school food plan and share best practice
  • Working with communities to improve access to healthy food and increase food related activities

Supporting the Lambeth Food Partnership to become a strategic lead on food in the borough