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Merseyside mums create The Cupboard to feed thousands every month  

4 weeks ago

Merseyside mums create The Cupboard to feed thousands every month  
Lucinda and Louise - The Cupboard

Two Merseyside mums who came together for each other in the Covid crisis have gone on to create food lifelines for many more cash-strapped families.

Lucinda and Louise set up The Cupboard in 2021, offering free 24-hour access to food in Ellesmere Port and Southport, and they now reckon they help to feed more than 3,000 people every month.

The Cupboard in Ellesmere Port also has a weekly community café, The Table, where an average of 50 people get to enjoy a warm meal using donated ingredients.

And, as the pair get ready to register as a charity having met essential criteria, there are hopes of a community centre and a mobile Cupboard to get to smaller villages and reach people who can’t get to them.

“I am proud of what we’ve done,” says Lucinda, a 34-year-old civil servant.  “It’s sad that there is still this need, but I’m proud that we have done something about it.

The Cupboard
The Cupboard

“The Cupboard started out because of our needs and our concerns about the amount of food waste, but it has gone on to help other people too, especially with the cost of living crisis.

“We see ourselves as reaching those who fall through the support gaps.”

She adds: “We have 30 volunteers who help us in Ellesmere Port alone, and the community spirit is incredible.

“We couldn’t stop now if we wanted to.”

Lucinda explains how it all began: “I had moved to Ellesmere Port from Southport in September 2019 and had just returned to work part-time from maternity leave.

“When Covid hit, I couldn’t change my contract for another 12 months, so we went from two incomes to one part-time income and we were not eligible for any support or grants.

“Our rent alone then was £850 a month and we started to look at bills and the only one that was flexible was food.

The Cupboard
The Cupboard

“I started using the Olio App where people post about and share food they don’t want or need, and that’s how I met Louise who lives close by. We’d have conversations on the doorstep about our shared situations: Louise’s partner was furloughed but even though he got 85% of his salary, it made a huge impact on them. You live within your means but if they change you can struggle.

“Apps can be fiddly because you have to post what you have and arrange collection through them, so Louise and I started a Facebook group. Within a week we had 500 members and then the Co-op in Ellesmere Port asked us if we could collect food from them.”

Eventually Lucinda and Louise set up The Cupboard, a shed-like mini-farm shop at Ellesmere Port United Reformed Church in Chester Road, Whitby, and then one in Longford Road, Southport.

Both are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week offering basic food items like bread, cereal, tins, milk, and other goods, and they are manned in the evenings when chilled foods become available and have to be given away with a certain time.

Southport even gets donated KFC food twice a week. 

The Cupboard
The Cupboard

The women make up Rapid Discharge Packs with essential items for people who are discharged from hospital to home with no-one to provide for them, as well as for others who need urgent food support to last at least a couple of days

There is no membership fee, no charges and no means testing.

The Ellesmere Port Cupboard now collects short-dated food from around 22 stores in the week and 25 at weekends; and in Southport – where the operation is smaller – four stores a day. (They even operate an official Foodbank session with West Cheshire Foodbank).

“We have some regulars who use us for everything, as well as people who might just come for bread – but that could save someone about £5 a week which could make a big difference” says Lucinda.

The Table community cafe - The Cupboard
The Table community cafe – The Cupboard

“They range from ex-servicemen to refugees and asylum seekers, pensioners, disabled people, and single parents, but what is shocking is how many working families are now in hardship and are coming.

“Through The Table we offer citizen’s advice and other charities come to offer help too, like domestic abuse charities.

“It’s taken a lot of man hours from me and Louise who still work – Louise works for a social housing company – but it’s good to see it go from strength to strength.

“It’s not just the food that helps people. Some of our volunteers come because they needed something meaningful to do and I have seen how it has helped them with whatever issues they might have been facing, and seen their confidence grow.

“We have plans to do more in Ellesmere Port and Southport and to expand into other areas, and we have even just teamed up with Chester Zoo to do a Nature Wildlife Project at Ellesmere Port URC to establish raised beds and grow our own fruit and veg. 

“Ideally me and Louise would like to commit ourselves to The Cupboard full time at some point. If we can achieve so much while we are working, imagine how much we could do if we weren’t!”

For more info on The Cupboard Southport click here, and for Ellesmere Port here.

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