As 2020 draws to an end people across the country are feeling the pinch when it comes to money.
Between lockdown, furlough and big chains and independent businesses all closing their doors, it’s not just those facing unemployment who are struggling financially – it’s also the working families, single mums and retired couples all trying desperately to make end meets as winter approaches.
So to try and help a new Cardiff community scheme has launched to give its members a basket full of food – for only £5.
A “respectful” alternative to the traditional food bank, a trip to the Llanrumney Hall Pantry can see those who sign up walk away with up to £25 worth of food that has been both donated or grown only metres away in the garden next door.
That’s as well as the toiletries, meat and frozen and dried goods available, not to mention the ready meals portioned up and ready to go from Morgan’s Table café at Llanrumney Hall.
While food banks may often be associated with those in crisis, the initiative is open to people from all walks of life, with a discrete free visit extended to those who need it most.
On opening day Catherine Healey is popping in to take a look at the new facility housed in a container building outside the hall.
As someone who works in Cardiff Prison in the visitors’ section, she has been on furlough throughout the pandemic.
Catherine said: “There has been nothing in Llanrumney for a couple of years so it’s really really good to help people on a low budget. It’s amazing the work that has gone into the building [the hall], it’s fantastic.
“There’s a lot of single parents in Llanrumney, people on a low budget. I’m still on furlough from work, it’s hard times for everyone.
“I’ve still got a mortgage to pay so this helps and I’ve got a few nice little bits for the house.”
Sam Holt is the man behind the newest branch of the Your Pantry franchise. After the scheme opened its first Welsh location at the Dusty Forge in Ely, it is hoped their latest site will do exactly the same in the east of the city.
While setting up the project, Sam has heard first-hand the difference having an extra basket of food can have.
He said: “I had a lady who is a retiree and she was explaining to me how they’ve lived for a long time, they know what it’s like to struggle and what it’s like to go without enough to pay the bills or to pay this or that. She was telling me this is the first service out there for people who are not on benefits, who are not in major poverty but do struggle from time to time.
“She said she was so relived to know this was available to her, to know that maybe on the weeks she is struggling she can come and get something and know her money will go further.
“Members are coming from all walks of life, some have got jobs, some are on lower incomes, some are on furlough, some have been laid off.”
At the moment, the pantry is only serving those from Llanrumney, although in time that will change. The process is simple – sign up and every time you want to use the service you pay £5 for a token, paid either in advance or on the day.
In return for £5 you are guaranteed to get at least £10 worth of goods, although depending on what’s in on the day you could walk away with a basket worth £20 or £25 if you get lucky.
Those unable to pay £5 can still apply to get a token like everyone else, which means volunteers running the service on the day won’t know who is able to pay and who is not.
So far they already have upwards of 50 members on the books.
Sam said: “It depends on what fresh meat products we might have or what some of the higher value products are. We’ve just given a kilo of scallops in a bag, which some people might not like but for other people that’s a big, big purchase.
“Everyone knows we all suffer with lack of money one week, one month or at some point in the year so it’s kind of a community response to the fact that we all might be struggling at different times, especially during this covid lockdown.
On Thursday morning Sarah Barcello is popping in to visit with her three-year-old Bella.
For her, the pantry scheme is a chance to shop local at a time where Cardiff remains in lockdown.
She said: “I signed up mainly because it’s local and obviously with coronavirus at the moment everything local has shut down. I thought why not put something back into the community, it’s right on my street.
“It’s very good value for money – I came away with £20, £25 worth of stuff for £5 and it’s all good stuff.
“I think everyone’s feeling it, whether you’re working, not working, part time, full time, everyone’s feeling it.”
Behind the scenes, the volunteers have been working hard to make sure the opening day is running smoothly.
As someone who worked at Co-op in Llanrumney for more two decades Lynne Martin is a reassuringly familiar face for the job, as well as fellow helper Tracey Miller – someone who is usually seen litter-picking outside the hall come rain or shine.
After collecting 300 bags of rubbish since the start of the year, Tracey was looking for a new opportunity to help when the pantry came about.
Lynne, who has lived in the area all her life, said: “It builds that community spirit and helps people out. Llanrumney could certainly do with a bit of a boost.
“67 years I’ve lived in Llanrumney and we had nothing, they took away our school, they took away everything. This is a way to put something back into the community.”
Tracey added: “There’s not a lot here, it’s pretty deprived still. We are a lot better than we used to be, more affluent I think, but there’s a huge difference between the haves and have nots. The ones who don’t have much really don’t have much.”
Along with the steady stream of visitors to the pantry, a few better-known faces are also making a trip to the hall.
As someone who grew up in Llanrumney, Welsh professional footballer Jess Fishlock MBE knowns just how important community is – it’s something that inspired her to donate her own money to get the initiative up and running.
Jess said: “This is very close to home and when it’s close to home I think you go the extra mile for it.
“The truth is when I was growing up the Llanrumney community was huge in my upbringing and I think society now has wavered away from community work – it’s more individual.
“I want to go back a little bit, I want it to go backwards to that community-type feel because I think Llanrumney is a place that when you all help each other it becomes something really great.
“I sat down with my family and said this is something I want to be part of.
“Right now given everything that’s happened in 2020 people need help. I’m a massive believer that if you can help then do please help. It could be as little as anything but that time and effort will go a long way.”
Cardiff City director Steve Borley agrees. As someone who has backed the refurbishment of Llanrumney Hall since the start, he has seen it flourish into the community space it is today.
Speaking at the pantry, he said: “The important thing about this facility is that it serves the community and the pantry is just just another element of the offering that this fantastic place is bringing to Llanrumney.
“It’s forever giving and that was the aim. I said I would only get involved if we made a community centre and I think we’ve done the old place justice.
“The pantry is a great project to bring to the hall.”
You can sign up or get more information here.