Feed the Hill: The social supermarket helping 700 Lewisham residents per week

The supermarket opens to the public every Wednesday on New Cross Road. Pic: Alexander Entwistle

Feed the Hill is a social supermarket in the heart of New Cross which provides surplus food for low income households in the New Cross and Deptford wards. The supermarket has been operating since it opened in 2020 to address food poverty, and is now feeding between 650 and 700 people weekly, as the cost of living crisis continues to impact residents across Lewisham.

Project Coordinator for Feed the Hill, Sharon Shamir told ELL: “Our aim here is around eliminating food poverty in the ward.

“Food poverty can look like various things: it can look like not being able to buy any food, but more commonly it looks like having a little bit of buying power but not having enough to actually eat well.”

The project was launched during the first Covid lockdown in March 2020, when Shamir and other volunteers formed a mutual aid group for SE14.

As shop shelves were left empty and people were forced to isolate, the Telegraph Hill-based group focused on supporting residents in north Lewisham who were shielding, self-isolating and struggling to find essentials in supermarkets.

The group partnered up with local charity Bold Vision to fundraise and supported 600 people who had been impacted by Covid financially – issues ranging from lack of free school meals for children, to unexpected job losses.

Feed the Hill then joined forces with Fareshare, the UK’s largest charity fighting hunger and food waste, saving perfectly good food that would otherwise be thrown away and redistributing it.

By October 2020, Lewisham Council offered Feed the Hill a location where they could distribute all of this food directly to customers. The group realised that food poverty was more pronounced in the New Cross/ Deptford ward than Telegraph Hill, so they moved.

Now, the social supermarket is feeding between 650 and 700 people weekly.

Anthropology student and supervisor at Feed the Hill, Flora Tye shared her experience on working at the supermarket saying: “It’s quite nice to do something that is hands-on. There are lots of lovely people who come to volunteer and lovely people who come to the shop.

“So just meeting those different people, speaking to them and just having a break from studying by doing something a bit more practical is really worthwhile.”

Locals on low incomes shop at the supermarket for a suggested two pound donation or for free if they cannot afford it. Pic: Alexander Entwistle

Every week, Feed the Hill receive between 700 kilograms and a tonne of supplies.

The amount of food that is kept on the main shop floor is enough to feed around 65 households or around 150 people.

The lower floor where most of the stock is kept can feed up to 200 households, equating to about 550 people.

The services have been a lifeline for many of the residents it supports, providing a week’s worth of nutritionally balanced food in each of its food parcels.

The cycle of products that are sold at Feed the Hill are dictated by what retailers have not been able to sell and when these leftover goods are received. Many of the foods that they offer have a very limited life, so they choose to open at a time of the week when the supermarket can maximise the amount that can be provided. Typically, the group receives an abundance of food at the start of the week, and open to the public halfway through the week.

Volunteer sorting foods into baskets. Pic: Alexander Entwistle

Outside of the social supermarket, Shamir and her team of volunteers operate a food bank to help people who are housebound.

While Feed the Hill does its best to be there for the local people whose needs they understand, they team up with similar organisations to give out and receive help wherever they can.

Sharon Shamir said: “One of the things we keep focusing on is partnerships and working together, either with other similar projects further afield or with other small charities doing something related.”

To be able to offer products that aren’t usually accessible for free, Feed the Hill has applied to grant-giving trusts including the National Lottery Community Fund, to buy in fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice and other food essentials. The project has also worked collaboratively with welfare rights organisations, New Cross Learning, the local toy library, children’s services and pet protection for those who need additional help with pets.

Shamir added: “Broadening those kinds of connections is really important to us because that means if somebody comes to us needing wider support then we’re able to provide, we can very gently signpost them and get them sorted.”

“There’s a lot of need at the moment in the UK, but we do our best to highlight the need in this area and the good that this project does,” she said.

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