Community Supermarket & Soup Kitchen

With the rising cost of living and the expected further rise in gas prices during the winter months of October-December 2022, MGRP has taken the initiative to run a Community Supermarket with a free hot meal service. The Community Supermarket aims to provide good quality basic groceries at a heavily subsidised price so that residents can afford to buy what they would otherwise rely on food banks to provide. This will not only preserve the dignity of residents in need; but also give them more purchasing power- which otherwise becomes compromised- when relying heavily on handouts received from food banks or community food clubs.

Most food banks don’t necessarily stock fresh, short shelf-life produce such as fresh milk, fresh fruit and vegetables which puts residents and children at a health risk especially if they are relying solely on long-life tinned food for longer periods of time.

Most importantly, residents are struggling to put their heating on during the cold winter months and resorting to canned ready meals or instant pot meals to save the energy costs involved with cooking a hot nutritious meal. For this purpose, Marks Gate Relief Project has expanded on their previously run and very successful ‘Community Catchup with free hot meal Service’ to provide a free of cost hot meal during a weekly Monday soup kitchen.

This service is open to residents from all over Barking and Dagenham with no questions asked. One of the major objectives of this project initiative is to address the stigma associated with soup kitchens usually serving the homeless, indigent and destitute. This project aims to welcome families and communities whole-heartedly, and to bring them together in times of intense financial hardship.

The project is a breakthrough in assisting families who are not necessarily homeless, penniless or destitute, but struggling to preserve their dignity whilst barely making it through the harshest of winter months. This project aims to bring families and communities together so that they can meet, socialise, connect with each other and break the silence (and stigma) around financial hardship.

This project will also give like-minded families a platform to safely discuss their financial insecurities and gain an insight into small but effective practical solutions to saving up on energy costs. Like-minded families can discuss various options, for example, to cook a nutritious hot meal in less than half the time it would take to cook on a regular cooker. Using a Multi-Function Instant Pot or a manual pressure cooker and fine timing the process of cooking can reduce energy bills to less than half. Energy losses from rubber sealed cooking pots such as pressure cookers and multi-function instant pots are much less compared to regular pots/pans so the food takes longer to cool down and this reduces the need to reheat just before serving.

By providing a no-questions asked, all-through-winter support policy, this project aims to provide earliest intervention and support so that the maximum number of families in Barking and Dagenham can be protected from falling into socio-economic crisis this winter. The serious consequences of financial hardship and debt- such as family breakdown and related stress, anxieties, worry, depression and domestic violence can be avoided if families can come down for a hot meal and perhaps also pick up a meal or two to last them for tomorrow or the day after. We already have trained members of staff in place to provide counselling to families who may be at risk (or breaking point) for various reasons. We have also collaborated with the Vavengers, a UK based charity aimed at ending violence against women, to spot signs of DV in families and provide confidential support/referrals where necessary.