HUNDREDS in Bolton and Bury have signed up to a community grocery initiative which celebrates its first anniversary this week.

The Mill Community Grocery has been helping to keep families fed by offering those who are finding it hard to put food on the table, affordable food shopping whilst also offering support in many different areas of life.

The grocery runs in partnership between national charity The Message Trust and Kings Church Bolton.

By signing up at the grocery, members can do a large food shop for only £3 per visit - saving on average over £30 each shop.

MEMBER: There are an array of foods and non-foods on offer

MEMBER: There are an array of foods and non-foods on offer

Step inside the store and you’ll find the same range of products you’d expect to see in your local supermarkets, including fresh fruit and vegetables, tinned goods, baked items, frozen food, sanitary and household items, thanks to donations by local suppliers and supermarkets.

Louise Whittington, the manager, said: “As lockdown eased, we found life was getting harder for families who having lost jobs during lockdown were struggling to afford food for their families.

“The idea of the Community Grocery was born. Using food donated by suppliers and companies, we provide our members with affordable food as well as wraparound support.

SUPPORT: The grocery others support as well as courses and low priced goods

SUPPORT: The grocery others support as well as courses and low priced goods

“In Bolton we have 1,629 members. In our first year we’ve had 16,444 shops done so far. These past 11 months working in the grocery have been an eye opener as to how many families are needing extra support with their weekly shopping budget.

“Every single member has their own story to tell of how hard these past couple of years especially have been.

“Some have lost their jobs, others are self-employed and many of our members are working full time but with the rising cost of living are finding it hard to make ends meet.

“I know I speak for my whole team of staff and volunteers when I say we consider it a privilege to be able to support people in Bury, Bolton and Radcliffe.

“Every member who comes through the door receives a warm welcome, a smile and a kind word or two alongside their £3 shop.”

A typical £3 shop includes one bakery item, five portions of fresh fruit or veg, seven different canned or boxed shelf items, one non-food item and one item from the freezer.

Optional ‘little extras’ can be added to the shop and are all priced separately.

As part of the £5 annual membership fee, courses are also on offer including cooking courses, CAP Money Management, children’s dance classes, exploring Christianity and Alpha course, coffee and chat and mini Giants for mums and toddlers.

One member of The Mill Community Grocery is grateful what the grocery has done and said: "I didn’t realise until I caught Covid how much shopping at the Community Grocery helped my budget.

“When I had to order online during our isolation my money dwindled rapidly and I had to contact Bolton Council for help.

“I gladly sang the charity's praises and told them how shopping was not only helping me to survive but also giving me a chance to make some great friends whenever I went in.”