It sells (almost) everything you would expect to buy in a regular supermarket, but shoppers can expect to pay around 70 per cent less at the tills of a new food store opening in Glasgow.

A similar approach to food pantries, social supermarkets have been around in Europe since the 1980s and around 100 are now operating in England.

While food banks are considered a crisis intervention, social supermarkets aim to avert a crisis, while affording people more choice and dignity. 

The only products they will not stock are cigarettes and alcohol.

One has already opened in Fife, but the new Threehills store in Nitshill is the first of its kind in Scotland and will also include a cafe, offering a 50% discount for shoppers, and a community space hosting a range of services including cookery classes and money advice.

 

It follows research carried out by Glasgow Caledonian University involving 247 people in the south side area, which found 37% were worried about running out of food but only 8% would use a food bank. 

HeraldScotland:

Three quarters said they were at least likely to visit a social supermarket.

Major supermarket brands including Sainbury’s, Tesco and Lidl and Aldi have pledged to support the initiative by donating excess stock.

The supermarket and cafe will be open at least five days a week from 9am-5pm and wiill be run by three paid members of staff and volunteers.

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“We sell everything a regular supermarket would sell,” said Pauline Gilgallon, development officer for Good Food Scotland, who is from the area and leading 
the project.

“From talking to the community, people want the choice. 

“Food banks do amazing work and they help so many people, but there are a lot of people wanting to move on from them.

“The food [in our supermarket] is great and shoppers can expect to pay about £4 for £20 groceries. That’s the sort of ratio we are working to.”

However, it’s not about letting governments “off the hook” says Andrew Forsey, national director of Feeding Britain, which has supported around 100 social supermarkets and pantries to open in England.

UK households face a hit of £1,200 this year stalling wages and rising tax and energy bills cause a “cost of living catastrophe”.

Food writer and activist Jack Monroe has exposed how prices for cheaper food products have soared as availability fell, contributing to rising hunger and poverty.

Mr Forsey said: “We are pushing the UK Government to do what it can through social security benefits, support schemes such as Best Start vouchers, as well as things like the warm homes discount.

“But what we are doing in parallel to that is we will never let the government off the hook, but nor should we let ourselves off the hook either. 

READ MORE: Ministers urged to quadruple child payments to hit poverty targets

“We have around 100 in England and the evidence is that [social supermarkets] have saved 14,000 households just shy of £4 million on their shopping and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that they are the way to go. 

“Almost half the shoppers are pensioners on low incomes who would not use a food bank due to issues around stigma.

“They see their friends, they can have a cup of tea and it feels like a regular shopping experience.”

Professor John McKendrick, director of the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit at Glasgow Caledonian University, who led the feasibility study into the supermarket, says there is growing recognition that society must aim to move away from food banks.

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He said: “It’s a good thing people want to help, but – and it’s a big but – they are geared up to deal with crisis. There’s also a lack of dignity about it as well and that’s not the fault of the food bank, it’s the conditions that bring people to it.

“You are getting a parcel without your choosing and people know 
you have problems, which is something some people are comfortable with but others aren’t.

“A social supermarket or pantry is trying to do something different. 

“They are trying to stop people at risk of vulnerability from falling into that vulnerability by giving them access to cheap food.

READ MORE: Scotland faces 'difficult decisions' to hit target on child poverty cut 

“The problem might not be that people are not eating, the problem might be elsewhere in other bills they can’t meet.

"That’s why social supermarkets are really important because they are reaching out to a broader population.”

No opening date for the Nitshill store has been announced.