Mayor Alderman Noel Williams recently paid a visit tothe ‘Mid and East Antrim Affordable Food Club’ – a Social Supermarket, serving the entire Borough andhelping those most in need during the current cost of living crisis.
Based at the newly established MEA Community Hub in Ballymena, the ‘Mid and East Antrim Affordable Food Club’ was established in October 2022, thanks to funding from the Department for Communities, distributed through Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
The Affordable Food Club offers a membership scheme, which gives members access to food at a reduced cost alongside a wraparound service to enable them to address any challenges that contribute to their food insecurity.
This is the first ‘Affordable Food Club’ in Northern Ireland. Since October, membership has been growing steadily with over 200 members.
Membership covers the entire Mid and East Antrim Borough. For those members across the Borough that cannot shop in person, they can access the Club online and avail of the service through the project’s click & collect service. This is assisting the Club in growing their membership across every part of MEA.
At the Community Hub, the Mayor met a number of the corporate sponsors who have stepped in to support the project, and said:
“This is a fantastic initiative, which is supporting many of our wonderful residents in their time of need. I would like to thank sponsors Moy Park, TESCO, Ballymena Chamber of Commerce, Ballymena Hygiene Bank, Connect Marketing, and Furbies Pet Supplies for their great donations and ongoing support.
“Ongoing support and sponsorship is vital for the sustainability of the club and I would appeal to otherlocal businesses to consider supporting this initiative in any way they can.”
Michele Campbell, Operations Director, added:
“The club is doing many great things but funding can only go so far - covering the basic costs. With more sponsorship the project will be able to provide a wider range of products, support and ultimately more help for local individuals and families.
“We are going from strength to strength and we would ask for anyone with time and skills to spare to come along and help us out.
“A range of volunteer roles are available including delivery drivers, grocery packers and kitchen/waiting staff for the Affordable Cafe which is now open for members five days per week from 11.00am – 2.00pm. All necessary volunteer training and out of pocket expenses are covered.”
Criteria for membership of the Affordable Food Club is income related. A family member must be in receipt of an income related benefit such as Income Related Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit. Membership is also offered to those on a household income of £16,000 or less per year - provided they have savings below £10,000.
The member must also engage with project staff who offer a wraparound service of support and advice - including benefit and debt advice amongst other support and guidance.
Membership lasts for 12 weeks, at which stage membership is reviewed.
If you are in need of support, or wish to find out more about the AFC and check if you meet the criteria for membership, contact Mid and East Antrim Community Advice Services on 028 9600 1333.