A PANTRY that only opened three months ago is now feeding around 500 people every week.

The community has shown its support for the Sturminster Newton-based venture through donations of both food and money, with the latest online fundraiser exceeding £5,000.

This is a scheme however that needs regular donations to survive.

From young families to pensioners, The Vale Pantry has been busy supporting residents across the Blackmore Vale during the Covid-19 pandemic, including the two latest lockdowns, through discounted food shops.

After just a few months of success the team hopes to expand the pantry to Shaftesbury when an affordable or free premises is available.

Different to a food bank, pantries are a service where members pay a small weekly fee for support in securing a regular food shop.

At the Vale Pantry members pay £4.50 a week to receive a £20 shop of products.

“Food poverty is generally the result of something else, perhaps debt, and our pantry is able to help those who need help in other areas,” explained pantry coordinator Carole Jones.

She added: “Many people can be confused between a pantry and a food bank. Our model of the pantry provides a sustainable solution.

"People don’t have to be referred, and we offer a whole range of foods and have commercial fridges and freezers so we can offer chilled, fresh and frozen produce.

"We work closely with our local food banks and they can refer people who have been with them in crisis on to us.”

As the scheme purchases its food from Fare Share - a charity that sends food items to projects instead of it becoming waste - donations are used to cover this, buy other products and maintain the pantry’s upkeep.

Responding to the fundraiser set up by The Blackmore Vale Partnership, supporters of the scheme, which has now hit around £5,900, Carole said: “We have lots of local people who really want to help the pantry and by setting up the Go Fund Me page we could offer a really simple click through.

“In order for us to be here for the longer term we need money.

"While we are fortunate that we had free rent until December, we have electric bills, rubbish and waste disposal to pay for weekly, Fare Share to pay each week, plus we purchase milk, eggs, household goods, nappies and sanitary-ware most weeks, we are spending anywhere between £500 and £1,500.”

She added: “As we grow, we hope to develop a good wrap-around service so that whilst people visit initially for food we may be able to help in [other] areas.”

For more information and to donate visit the pantry's Go Fund Me page.

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