Frequently asked Questions

If you want to know anything else that isn't listed - just ask us.

What is the difference between a Foodbank and the Pantry?

To access a foodbank you need to be referred, with the Pantry - you can simply self refer, just click into our Membership Page to apply. A foodbank will provide a pre-packed box of ambient foods only.  At the Pantry you can choose your own foods which include fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, meats etc, so you get everything you need in a healthy diet.  The Pantry offers a sustainable way to manage whilst going through difficult times.  However, a foodbank provides their food free, the Pantry asks for a contribution of £6 on each visit.

What happens if I cant pay the £7?

We can provide a crisis shop for you, but we would ask that you pay as soon as you can when you receive your money.

How do I pay?

We can take cash or card, or if you want to make a transfer direct to our bank then that's perfectly fine too.  Some members pay ahead for the month when they get paid so that they have peace of mind knowing that food will be there for them each week.

How do you assess whether I am eligible to join the Pantry?

On the application process which you can find online on our website we do ask some financial questions which include whether you run out of money before the end of the week/month and whether you struggle to pay certain bills, but when you have completed your application we will call you.  We will ask further questions about your household finances, - how much money is coming into the house, whether you are on benefits, whether you have debt etc. This helps us ensure that those using the pantry have priority and are accepted quickly.  These questions also are then used to help each person - could they, for example, be eligible for benefits they are not receiving?  In which case we can make a 48hr referral through to the Citizen;'s Advice Bureau who have helped many of our members.  We have many areas of help we can signpost to and support you through the process, but by understanding each person's needs, this enables us to do whatever we can to help you back on your feet.

How long can I use the Pantry for?

There is not a limit on how long we can help you for, but where possible, it is our aim to help where we can to give you the time to get back on your feet and then step away from the Pantry so as to enable another family or individual to join us for our help.  There are times when we do have a wait list and where people can manage without using the Pantry- we ask that they do so.

There must be people worse off than me - I don't like to ask for help.

If people like you don't use us, we wouldn't need to be here, - if you need help, if you are cutting back on food and worry that you or your family is not getting enough to eat - we need you in the Pantry every week!  Besides, some of the food we get is short dated and if you didn't take it, it would go to landfill - be an eco-warrier and join the Pantry!

Where does your food come from?

We purchase nearly all of our food.  We have a contract with FareShare, a national charity, who take excess food and donations from supermarkets, growers etc, and our contract pays FareShare each week for the food they deliver.  In addition we have a bulk wholesale account with Morrisons, a local fruit and veg wholesaler and a wholesale butcher.  All in all, we pay in the region of £3000 a week on food and this money has to be raised through donations, grants and membership fees.


What else can I expect from the Vale Pantry?

We often provide 'Recipe Bags' - which contain every ingredient to make a nutritious family meal together with a step by step card.  These are hugely popular and we charge just £1 extra for these.

We facilitate a weekly support group for parents with children with autism or additional needs.  A great many of our families are in this position and enjoy somewhere to offload, share coping mechanisms and have a cup of tea - if you want more information, just ask us.

We are often offered items such as household goods, furniture etc and these are then offered out to members of the Pantry in need, - so it's worth checking out our Facebook page and making sure you read our emails as there are often lots of goodies on offer.

Carole Jones, who is the Pantry coordinator is also a Councillor on Dorset Council and can help and support in a number of Council areas such as housing, social services etc and she has been able to help a number of members with all sorts of issues.

How can I help the Pantry?

A number of our members help us - perhaps by volunteering to collect food being offered at the end of day from one of the supermarkets in the area: we collect from Tesco in Blandford and Shaftesbury each Wednesday and Friday night and the Co-op in Templecombe.  We put together monthly rotas so this does not become too onerous for people. Some members want to help by fundraising and we would welcome any help in this area.  For those that get back on their feet could you set up a small standing order each month?  Our biggest challenge is raising enough money to purchase the food we need and if this is an area you can help us with - let us know!  We are also happy to take donations of unopened food providing it is in date, so if something has been sitting in your cupboard for a while - we'd love to have it!

AND...When you can manage....

We ask that you step back from the Pantry to allow another family or individal to join.  For every £7 contribution made towards your shop - it costs us well over £20 an fundraising is needed constantly to do what we do.  So please never think of us as a 'cheap shop' - we are there in times of need.