A COMMUNITY food pantry, described as the first of its kind in north Dorset, will be launching this week, offering a different and more accessible kind of shop.

The Vale Pantry will be opening in Sturminster Newton on Thursday with a twist on the traditional food bank, as members pay a small weekly fee to get support in securing a regular food shop.

For a weekly membership of £4.50, those signed up will be able to choose a selection of food, worth around £20, each week from the pantry, with produce including fresh fruit and vegetables, store cupboard favourites, bread, dairy products and frozen items.

“The point of the Vale Pantry is to support people with a shop that will feed some hungry mouths for a few days. It’s just helping those struggling,” explained pantry coordinator Carole Jones.

She added: “By people making a payment it gives that dignity to then pay and shop like normal, choosing products to a degree.

“We’re here to help stop people falling into that crisis and relying on food banks, just sign up and come in and choose what you want.”

In the lead up to opening Carole said the response to the initiative has been “fantastic”, adding: “We are the first rural pantry so we’re quite different from city areas, but it’s still ran by volunteers.

“[The community support] has just been so astonishing and heart warming, especially as people are out there who have been affected by Covid-19 or lost their jobs and are juggling between what to pay for each month - they don’t have to make that choice any more.”

If the scheme is successful there is hope for the pantry network to expand to Shaftesbury and Gillingham, in addition to more activities and initiatives being set up, such as distributing recipe cards.

Currently funded by the The Blackmore Vale Partnership and based in the former Spear Travels site in Market Place, Carole said the aim for the pantry is to become self-funded, with all money going straight back into the pantry and sourcing food.

When asked why she decided to get on board, alongside project manager Karen Rhys, she said: “It’s great to be involved, it has taken over our lives but it is worth it.

“It is such an exciting project, there are so many areas with food poverty but it is unseen - now we’re ready to feed and ready to go.”

The pantry will be open on Thursdays 5pm until 8pm and Saturdays 9am until 12pm.

For more information visit yourlocalpantry.co.uk or The Vale Pantry Facebook page.