A NEW food club is running in Blackheath - helping families struggling to pay their bills fill their cupboards for just £4 a week.

Bethel Church has set up the Manna House Pantry, run entirely by volunteers, in Vicarage Road.

It wanted to reach out into the community and has converted a warehouse, near the church which is also in Vicarage Road, into a food shop with a lounge and an office.

The project, a franchise of the national Your Local Pantry network, is open on Mondays and Thursdays from 10am till 1pm.

It has a Facebook page and is already up and running helping local families in need, but will be officially launched on Monday December 2.

Pantries are membership-based food clubs that source from supermarket surplus and help people struggling to meet their bills buy food at a fraction of its supermarket price.

Unlike food banks, which rely on referrals and are a temporary measure, people can use the pantry for as long as they like - they can visit once a week - they must live locally and are simply asked if they ever struggle to pay bills.

The fee at the Manna House is £4 for which members can choose ten items, with a total value of around £25.

Mark Crumpton, who owns Carera Windows and attends Bethel Church, is voluntary project manager for the Manna House.

He said: “We wanted to get out into the community. We knew there was a social need in the area.

"We thought about a food bank - they are great at what they do - but they are short term from referrals and it's difficult to build relationships.

"So we decided the social supermarket would be a better model for us.

"The pantry provides members with good quality food, including fresh produce, for an affordable membership fee.

"This helps local families struggling with food costs to eat more healthily and expand the range of food in their weekly shop.

"People don't have to visit every week.”

Members are already signing up and the pantry hopes to have 150 within the next year.

Your Local Pantries, set up by Stockport Homes, source their food via the charity Fareshare which distributes surplus food from supermarkets and by developing relationships with local food businesses which offer surplus.

Shoppers can donate to Manna House Pantry at Sainsbury’s in Blackheath.

A report last year found pantry members had saved £650 a year on average on their shopping bills.

Anybody interested in setting up a Your Local Pantry in their community is invited to email gillian@church-poverty.org.uk

To apply for membership of Manna House visit its Facebook page or email mannahouse72a@gmail.com.