Introducing the 'social supermarket': Where even Britain's poorest people can afford the finest food

'Community Shop' has opened its first supermarket outlet in Goldthorpe in South Yorkshire

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The Independent Online

The Nescafe Azera Coffee should have sold in a supermarket for £3.29 however a manufacturing error meant that instead of the advertised 60g its contents weighed in at a paltry 59g.

Normally the “barista-style” powder would have been consigned to landfill – or slightly more palatably – been consumed in a giant anaerobic digester. Today however it was being offered for sale at Britain’s first social supermarket at the bargain price of just 99p.

It was a similar story for the undamaged but undelivered toiletries returned to the Ocado depot, the incorrectly packaged Muller yogurts or the Asda Gruesome Gooballs left languishing unwanted with the passing of Halloween.

Despite being perfectly in date and among some of the country’s most popular brands, they were on sale in Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire today, among produce 70 per cent cheaper than in normal shops.

The former pit village, scene of some of the most vitriolic scenes on the day of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, is among the most deprived communities in the country. At local schools up to seven in 10 pupils are on free school meals – three times the national average.

“We have shoppers here who are young mums who are holding down two jobs to fit around childcare and school and are still not managing to break through the poverty threshold,” said Sarah Dunwell, project leader at Community Shop, an organisation which plans to open 20 such social supermarkets by Easter next year, including six in London.

“We have all sorts of comments about people getting out of bed and getting a job but some of our members are clinging on every week. There are so many people making hard decisions about putting money in the meter or food in their children’s lunchbox – families feeding the kids but who can’t eat that night themselves. When this happens day after day it is soul destroying,” she added.

Community Shop is a subsidiary of Company Shop, the UK’s biggest distributor of surplus food and goods, and has the backing of some of the biggest players in the food industry who provide stock at no or low profit to the social enterprise.

Some 500 members have so far signed up to the scheme in Goldthorpe, which is set to develop a community hub, café and cook school next year.

Among them is mother of five Rachel Cooke. The 33-year-old and her partner are both out of work and have between £60-£70 to feed their family each week as well as buy nappies and powdered milk for their seven-month old twins.

She heard about the new store on Facebook. “A lot of people have branded this area with bad publicity so bringing something like this here is great,” she said.

George Copley, 75, a former miner was perusing the Rwandan tea bags with curiosity. “There is a lot of people around her like me. Tell me that Mr Cameron is not coming – if he is coming I’m off,” he said. “There’s been nothing here since the day the pit closed (1994). You have to pick and choose what you pick up because there is still the water bill and the electricity to pay,” he added.

Community Shop offers just 2,400 products compared to a large supermarket which can stock up to 40,000 lines. There was only a small range of fresh fruit and vegetables and organisers admit that availability is dependent on what surplus products become available for the manufacturers.

But its members seemed pleased. Susan Liversidge, 53, who has been unemployed for the past three years, said she had just £30 a week to spend on food. “There are some really nice brands that I wouldn’t normally be able to afford – M&S, Tesco Finest. It is really good quality at a cheap price,” she said. It means I might have a bit of money left over to buy a gift for someone or invite a friend over for a meal which I haven’t been able to do before,” she said.