The Food Pantry feeding ‘a new member every week’ with Council support



In a street just off Cardiff's bustling City Road a group of people wait patiently in the drizzle, outside an unassuming building. It's ten minutes before the door opens, they're handed a ticket, and they file in to do their weekly shopping - filling bags with everyday staples including pasta, cereal, chopped tomatoes and bananas.

The scene at the TAVS Centre's Food Pantry is repeated every Tuesday and Thursday evening, when around 30 people per night pay a £3 membership to fill a bag with around £15 of food shopping.

"We have a new member every week," explains Community Worker, Hannah Westwell, "it has grown massively since we set up during Covid. Initially it was just people who came to our Sunday nights, where we give out free hot food - so mostly people who were homeless or vulnerably housed, but we're seeing increasing numbers of asylum seekers and refugees, as well as people who just live locally and need some extra help."

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TAVS Centre Community Worker, Hannah Westwell (right) and one of the volunteers at the Food Pantry.

The project is one of twenty-seven food projects in Cardiff that have recently benefitted from over £193,000 of grant funding from Cardiff Council. The projects supported with capital and revenue funding, range from food pantries like TAVS, to luncheon clubs aiming to combat loneliness and isolation, cooking clubs providing training in how to cook affordable, healthy meals, to growing projects which supply fresh produce for some of the city's many food pantries.

Cabinet Member for Public Health & Equalities, Cllr Julie Sangani, said: "Most of us will have felt the impact of rising food prices recently, and as the cost-of living crisis continues to bite, more and more residents are finding themselves in need of support. These grants are one way the Council is helping make sure communities across the city have access to the healthy, affordable food they need."

For projects like TAVS, which are run almost entirely by volunteers and rely on donations, the funding has been vital.

"Supermarkets are cutting how much surplus they have," says Hannah, "which means projects like ours have less sustainability, so the grant has allowed us to really build up our stocks of food that will last, so we've done a lot of shopping for long-life goods, things that will last us well through the year."

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Some of the food the grant funding has enabled the TAVS Centre to purchase.

The money has also helped TAVS pilot an International Cooking Club, where members of the food pantry cook food from their home country to share with others, and purchase kitchen utensils, so they can "set people up if they don't have something they need to cook at home - tin openers, vegetable peelers - there's no point giving people a celeriac if they don't even have a knife to cut it with - so it's removing that barrier."

Two days later, the pantry will be restocked, and a different 30 people will be waiting outside. According to Hannah, "there's not much overlap between the groups, so it adds up to a lot of people."

"It's quite sobering," said Cllr Sangani, "but without the help provided by organisations like TAVS, the situation could sadly be much worse."