A COMMUNITY centre in West Cumbria is supporting people who struggle financially and helping the environment at the same time.

Highfield Community Centre in Cockermouth held its first Food Pantry of 2020 on Friday.

The project, in collaboration with Fareshare, sees surplus food from supermarkets being redirected to support communities.

People are asked for a minimum donation of £2 and can take two bags of food each.

Next week the centre will also start a clothes pantry, where people can take donated clothes for free.

June Irving, 66, has been using the Food Pantry since it first started 12 months ago.

She said: “It’s brilliant, I’m a pensioner so it’s very useful to me and it saves food going to landfill.

“There’s a good range of food available and it gets better every week.”

Chris Barwise, 37, also uses the service.

He said: “I’m on benefits, I don’t get much money and this helps me. The volunteers are really helpful and everybody comes in and has a chat.”

A 56-year-old woman, who did not wish to be named, said the Food Pantry “shouldn’t be needed, but it’s a good job it exists.

“With the foodbank you can only have three parcels of food and sometimes it isn’t enough, especially if you have children. This has improved my quality of life.”

Lidl also donates surplus food to the centre for its Food Pantry.

Mary Mitchelhill, secretary at the community centre, said it was a misconception that there was no poverty in


She said: “Anyone can come to the Food Pantry, it’s not means-tested. Not everyone qualifies for foodbanks but it doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling.

“There is an assumption people in Cockermouth are well-off but we know there are pockets of people in the town who are really struggling, especially those who are on Universal Credit.”

Around 40 people come to the centre for food each month.

Robert Chapman, chairman of the community centre, said: “If you’re still struggling after the foodbank, where do you go? Universal Credit has had a big impact and we’re here to support people who need it.”

The Food Pantry runs every second Friday of the month from 11am and 1pm.

The new clothes pantry will run every third Friday of the month from 11am to 1pm, in partnership with the WI, the Rotary Club and NCT.

Mary said: “If people are struggling for food, they’re obviously struggling to buy clothes too and some of the charity shops have become too expensive for them.

“The range of clothing is from babies right up to adults, we have a bit of everything, including school uniforms.”

Anyone wanting to donate clothes can contact the community centre on their Facebook page or call 01900 821612.