A COMMUNITY food pantry is encouraging those who are struggling to "not be embarrassed" about seeking help.

Tadley Community Food Pantry, located in the Tadley Community Centre in Newchurch Road, has been making a difference in the area for just over two years.

The pantry helps many locals who are struggling with the rapidly rising cost of food in supermarkets.

The operation evolved from a community project during the 2020 Covid lockdown, when volunteers provided their services to help bring shopping to those most at risk.

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Basingstoke Gazette: Some of the shelves in the pantrySome of the shelves in the pantry (Image: Tadley Community Food Pantry)

"I was out delivering shopping every day," said Mandy Atkinson, manager of the food pantry.

Mandy, who is originally from Cambridgeshire, has lived in Tadley since 2007 after brief spells living in Basingstoke and Puerto Rico.

She said: "We would take shopping and food to those who were self-isolating and those too vulnerable to go out themselves.

"We would take the money over the phone and deliver bags of shopping to those who need it. Eventually, we were given more funding, and then doctors and Hampshire County Council would refer people to us.

"At one point we had around 60 volunteers in the operation."

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Since the end of lockdown, Tadley Community Food Pantry has acquired more funding and operates differently, rather than sending out volunteers to deliver shopping, those in need can sign up and receive help with their food shopping.

The pantry, not to be confused with a foodbank, is more like a shop. You can be a member as long as needed, and members make a contribution of £5 per visit, once a week max, and can select items totalling a minimum of £15.

Mandy said: "We operate slightly differently to other, similar set-ups. For example, others may require vouchers or need someone to refer you, but with us, you can self-refer.

"People who are financially struggling can come to us and we can help them.

"Think of us like a safety net before you get to a foodbank. Some people who come to us might not need regular help, perhaps they are struggling to pay for petrol at the end of the month, and need to choose between going to work to earn money and to eat. That's when they can come to us and we can help them.

"It's different with each case, some need us once a month, some need us every six months."

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The pantry is available to anyone in the community in need of help there are no restrictions on becoming a member.

People can sign up by completing a membership form which can be completed with one of the volunteers during their first visit.

Mandy explained how in recent months demand at the food pantry has increased, but that there is no need to feel ashamed about using the services.

"It has picked up recently compared to how it was, but it is nothing to be embarrassed about. 

"Many are a little bit scared to ask for help, but the more people get to know us, the easier it gets. It becomes a lot less daunting.

"It can be hard to admit you need help but you can just come in for a cup of tea and a chat.

"Everybody has struggled so don't be embarrassed, we are here to help if you need us."

Readers can find out more by visiting tadleycommunitycentre.org.uk/pantry