Dusty Forge Pantry in Ely, Cardiff is now able to help more vulnerable people thanks to funding from Cardiff Third Sector Council (C3SC).

Action in Caerau and Ely (ACE) launched Dusty Forge Pantry in 2019 to support local people living in Ely and Caerau who struggle with the cost of food.

For £5 a week, members can pick up around £20 worth of healthy produce sourced by Fareshare, a charity that redistributes surplus from supermarkets and food producers. Around 100 members benefit from the pantry every week.

Additional funding from C3SC has now enabled Dusty Forge Pantry to open a community kitchen and café. Six volunteers were able to take part in Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s Community Nutrition Skills for Life Programme which means they can now prepare healthy meals to be sold at the café. They can also develop recipes for members to try at home.

Sam Froud-Powell is Community Support Coordinator and Operation and Development Manager at ACE, said: “We’re really grateful for the support to move forward our community food work, supporting people to make healthy choices through engagement.

“Our volunteers help guide people with food choices every week, it’s a bit like having a personal shopper but for your food. We can introduce people to foods they may not have considered before, suggest meal ideas and share recipes.

“Now we have established the café, if we make a soup for example pantry members can take it home and see whether they like it. If so, they can then make it themselves as they’ve got the recipe.

“We’ve also set up a community fridge which stores any leftovers from the pantry and café. People can visit us and pick up this food for free on a Friday, no questions asked. This helps reduce food poverty and food waste.”

Mum-of-three Sarah Whitfield is one of the volunteers working at Dusty Forge and has experienced the benefits first-hand.

Sarah, 38, said: “I’m a single mum-of-three. I worked as a waitress but things were tight and I came to Dusty Forge for a foodbank voucher and then found out about the pantry.

“They asked if I would like to join the pantry as a member but also said they were looking for volunteers to help run it. I had time during the week and thought ‘why not?’.

“The benefit of joining the pantry is that your regular supermarket is not as friendly as we are! People shop with us, sit down with us, chat with us – we welcome anybody and we’re all one big family.

“Being involved with the pantry has given me a purpose and an extended family. I worked at weekends but all I was doing in the week previously was sleeping and my mental health was low. Before I was really shy but since getting involved with the pantry I’ve come out of my shell.

“My kids come down here too, they know all the people here. My daughter will come and do her college work here.

“Through Dusty Forge I signed up for a course in youth and community work. I enjoyed it so much I’ve now starting a Foundation Degree at Cardiff Metropolitan University.”

For more information, please visit aceplace.org or call 02920 003 132.

For more information about Nutrition Skills for Life please visit www.nutritionskillsforlife.com or email the Public Health Dietetic Team on Nutrition.Skillsforlife.cav@wales.nhs.uk