Blog: Apex Community Supermarket
Catherine Lusby manages the running of Apex Community Supermarket in Derry~Londonderry. Here she blogs about the concept of a ‘social supermarket’, how it helps local people overcome financial stress and the importance of ‘community’ especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
What is a ‘social supermarket’? Many people have asked me this and until 2017 I had never heard of the term until I happened to read a job advertisement for a job with Apex Housing Association. A social supermarket is essentially a marketplace for food which also provides a range of support services for its shoppers. Formats and frameworks vary from organisation to organisation and between countries.
Apex Community Supermarket is funded by the Department for Communities and supported by Apex Housing Association. It is a membership-only scheme for households within County Derry/Londonderry who are experiencing financial distress. We currently have 50 member households who pay a fee of £5 per week and have access to approximately £25 worth of food plus a selection of free fruit and vegetables. As well as groceries, our members have access to a range of financial, social and emotional supports and are able to tailor our services to their needs.
Our vision is to provide a safe and friendly environment to allow people to transform their lives.
Financial stress has already had a negative impact on our members and reduced the number of choices that they have – to heat or to eat is the stark reality for many households. Redundancy, zero hour contracts, relationship break-ups, bearing witness to or being part of a traumatic event such as bereavement, life-changing illness, suicide, accident, criminal offences – they all have the power to catapult a household into financial stress.
For many of us we may be able to manage financially for a few months or even a year or two. But what happens when finances run out? What happens when stress and anxiety take over your life? What do you do when you’ve already asked your friends and family for support? What if you don’t have family and friends who are able to support you?
None of us are immune from stress and anxiety, but for many households one key change in their lives can tip the balance and propel people on to a hamster wheel of stress, anxiety and depression affecting their long-term emotional, social and financial wellbeing. Apex Community Supermarket aims to slow that hamster wheel down.
We provide choice in the food that people can get for their households, choice in the ways people can develop themselves and choice in the services that they participate in. Our aim is that for every household who belongs to our community there will be an improvement in their lives by the time their membership ends.
There are many outstanding organisations and people who can help. We currently partner with 24 organisations who act as referral agencies for our Community Supermarket and who nominate their clients for membership. In the last 26 months of operation we have linked with organisations in providing a range of 30 support services. All the support services on offer have been endorsed by our members in order to ensure high quality services with maximum impact. Our members have taken part in over 3,000 instances of support services.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the strength of ‘community’
As I write this we are in the midst of a global pandemic. The terms ‘social distancing’ and ‘socially isolating’ have entered our everyday vocabulary. As a direct contrast to these phrases, daily newsfeeds report on how communities are coming together to help one another as we isolate and distance from others.
I contend that ‘community’ has been happening quietly and without fanfare forever. I believe in the power of community and the transformative effects that it can have on the individual. Many of us belong to different types of community – family, school, friends, work, religious, recreational, volunteering; and we have all benefitted from that involvement.
Here in our city, over many years, I have been witness to the power of the individual and the power of organisations in building support networks to build communities; helping one individual at a time. I have witnessed how individuals pay that help forward, generously giving their time, expertise and in some cases their finances to support others. I have witnessed people overcoming what seemed like insurmountable adversities to build positive and successful futures for themselves and their families.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Apex Community Supermarket – as a member or business supporter – please do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.
Contact Apex Community Supermarket
Apex Living Centre
Springtown Industrial Estate
Phone, text or email using the details below (Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm):
Catherine: 0770 3740 491
Frances: 0784 0048 444