Original article from Kent Live
A Tunbridge Wells community larder has been helping to both reduce food poverty in the area and save surplus supermarket food from going to waste.
Rusthall Community Larder was set up in January with the intention of helping those in need in the village – unlike food banks, people do not have to qualify to use the community larder and there are no restrictions on the amount of food they can take.
Local businesses package up their short-dated and surplus food for Rusthall Community Larder to collect and distribute amongst the community.
Volunteer Alex Britcher-Allan said: "It's about combatting both food poverty and food waste.
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"You don't have to be poor and you don't have to prove anything when you visit – we won't ask about your circumstances."
The Community Larder was set up earlier this year in light of the financial struggles faced by many during the coronavirus lockdowns.
Volunteer Björn Simpole added: "Food banks are very much for emergencies, this is intended as a model to support people regularly.
"During the pandemic, people who wouldn't normally qualify for food banks found themselves struggling financially.
"They couldn't get support and weren't eligible for furlough."
But as well as hoping those struggling for food, Rusthall Community Larder also has a green agenda.
By accepting donations of produce nearing its sell-by date, they have saved over 5.5 tonnes of food from being binned.
Many local businesses have got involved and regularly donate their surplus produce, including Morrisons Crowborough, Groombridge Bakery, Lidl and Iceland.
According to Alex, the environmental focus has also reduced the stigma associated with using food banks.
People from all walks of life have visited the larder to do their bit for the environment, making it easier for those in need to visit without feeling ashamed or judged.
And if the food isn't collected, Rusthall Community Larder make sure it still doesn't go to waste by donating it to feed farm animals and horses.
The project has been received well by the local community, with around 45 to 50 people visiting each week.
Local residents have joined the supermarkets in donating their surplus food via the larder's donation bins, and groups such as Rusthall Football Club have raised funds to help support the project.
The larder is run entirely by volunteers at St Paul's Church Centre on Rusthall Road.
They ask for a donation of £2 to help fund their work, but this is optional.
There are other Community Larders held at locations across Tunbridge Wells, including St Mark's Church Hall in Broadwater Down, Tunbridge Wells Baptist Church on Upper Grosvenor Road, St Phillip's Church in Sherwood, St Matt's Church in High Brooms, and Christ Church in Southborough.