FAMILIES on low incomes are enjoying a new shopping service designed as an alternative to food banks.

They can join The Storehouse Pantry, located in The Hope Centre on Tattersall Avenue, Johnson Fold, as members for £2.50.

Customers receive roughly £15 worth of products in themed packs for each £2.50 visit.

The goods on offer have either been donated or diverted from landfill by FareShare, which re-distributes surplus supermarket food.

Bolton At Home teamed up with Christian charity Urban Outreach and St Peter's Church in Halliwell for the project aimed at those who do not qualify for food bank vouchers.

Anne Burns, neighbourhood manager at Bolton at Home, said: "Although food banks are a valuable source of support for many people, the Storehouse Pantry is intended to be a positive progression which allows us to reach more people.

"There are many reasons for emergency food use and this isn’t limited to people who are unemployed.

"The pantry is also offering wider choice with a range of fresh food and household goods available, as well as support for those facing financial exclusion, debt and poverty."

The Storehouse Pantry was opened by the Mayor of Bolton, Councillor Carole Swarbrick, yesterday and was blessed by the Bishop of Bolton.

It will be staffed by volunteers from the church and Bolton at Home employees through the organisation’s Give and Gain scheme to allow staff paid days off to help the voluntary sector.

Eventually, it is hoped that local community volunteers will take over.

Pantry customers will be able to attend advice sessions on subjects such as healthy eating, cooking, growing food and financial issues.

By pooling members fees the project can buy products in bulk for a larger discount and can support locally grown food.

The pilot scheme will be rolled out across neighbourhoods in Bolton if it proves a success.