Posted: 16/05/2022

View from HQ

You might, like me, still be suffering from the fug of being locked up and not interacting properly for over two years. The instinct of business survival is still there, as we fight the next economic pitfall, but I’m worried that this struggle induces inward, rather than outward, thinking.

So, it was time to take the mind for a walk and see something new, different and thought-provoking.

Our ‘walk’ took us to The Vale Pantry, a mini-market concept in Dorset near our HQ. It is busier than ever helping families and individuals in desperate need: those choosing to eat or heat.

“I’m worried that this struggle induces inward, rather than outward, thinking”

John Farrand, Managing director, Guild of Fine Food

We support the Pantry, as well as Blackfriars Settlement in south-east London, by donating food and drink products after Great Taste judging. I see crates of every type of food, drink and ingredient heading off from our judging rooms most weeks, but I had never seen its benefit with my own eyes.

The Vale Pantry, while being a social enterprise and charity, is a proper shop in Sturminster Newton, operating with volunteer workers. Shoppers pay £6 for all they can carry and pay at a real-life till.

There was a concerning, steady stream of those in need on the morning I visited, most in good spirits, chatting to the shop staff, seeking advice and counsel. It was a food and drink shop first, but it was certainly a doctors’ surgery, citizens advice and well-being hub, second.

It was there that a cruel irony struck me. The traditional food banks do important and necessary things but could there be a parallel approach that encourages those in need to make informed buying choices and opt for fresh foods?

It’s more nutritious than endless tinned and processed products and, in the long-term, a cheaper alternative.

Carole Jones, head-honcho at the Pantry was ahead of me, though. “We’re doing weekly cookery classes for our shoppers using fresh ingredients available in store. They’re over-subscribed”.

Now, that’s outward (and onward) thinking.

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