“Our work needs to reflect the community,” say the team at Peckham Pantry

7 October 2021

“We’re a mixed community in Peckham, so we try to bring that inclusiveness into the Pantry,” explains Temi Okudiya, manager of Peckham Pantry, where dignity, inclusivity, and community are key to their success.

During Black History Month we want to celebrate the work that charities and community groups, like Peckham Pantry, are doing to help support and uplift the diverse cultures and histories of Black people in communities across the UK.

“People come for many reasons – they’re on low income or they’ve lost their job. Coming here saves people a lot of money and makes a lot more kinds of food affordable for them,” says Temi. “When they come here they get to choose what they want, like a mini-supermarket. It brings that aspect of dignity to the Pantry.”

When Peckham Pantry’s location at St. Luke’s Church opened in April of 2019, CEO Chris Price credited FareShare as the Pantry’s sole food provider: “FareShare has made it possible for Peckham Pantry to happen.”

Since then, the Pantry has grown to two locations. Their Peckham Park Road centre opens Monday-Saturday, maintaining a service for around 300 people each week all through the pandemic.

“Our work needs to reflect the community”

Peckham Pantry is part of a larger organisation called Pecan. Alongside the pantry, Pecan also has an employment centre, women’s centre and a food bank. The Pantry can therefore serve as a way for the organisation to make connections with vulnerable people and introduce their members to Pecan’s wider services.

Pecans services include practical support as well as cultural and community-building activities: “Pecan will usually do some activities around Black History Month and we always promote it through the Pantry,” says Temi, “I think that inclusivity and diversity is really important in our work.”

The needs, cultures, and backgrounds of their community are also prioritised in the food they provide:

“We want to show everyone – Black, white, different religions and cultures – no matter who you are you can come in and feel included,” explains Temi. “We say we’re a community shop so our work needs to reflect the community. We have a very diverse community – people from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean. We realised that if we wanted the Pantry to work we had to find out the kind of foods people identify with.”

“They can cook it their own way”

As Temi explains, providing food from different cultures not only makes everyone feel welcome, it ensures everybody can get the most out of the ingredients they have: “For instance, at our Pantry we try to have the real red kidney beans, not just the tinned ones, because we know we have a lot of people from Africa or from Jamaica who want to be able to cook it their own way. Having these fresh ingredients means they can make whole, healthy meals that they will like.”

While Temi and her team have worked hard to source food from additional sources such as local businesses, FareShare’s provision remains a crucial foundation: “FareShare food helps a lot. We get a lot of halal food, vegan food, as well as things like yam and sweet potato. It can vary a lot but people get really excited to see all the different types of vegetables.”

Chris adds: “Being able to provide nutritious fruit and veg, so that families are able to have a more balanced diet and make healthier choices, is absolutely vital. We are making sure what we provide for families is diverse and healthy.”

The Pantry has received positive reviews from its members. “The most important thing is that people choose to come back,” Chris attests. “Members return because the Pantry assures comfort and support while removing any stigma. Choosing their own food provides members with dignity and freedom.”