Food support group's record year providing 280,000 meals
- Credit: Lianne Simpson
A community support group which started distributing food parcels from its founder's garage is heading for a record year after handing out 280,000 meals and preventing thousands of tonnes of surplus supermarket food going to landfill.
Huntingdon-based Diamond Hampers recycled £350,000 of food over the year, including £6,000 of Christmas turkeys.
Diamond Hampers opened its shop The Pantry, in Huntingdon town centre, where affordable food is sold, less than a year ago and has just opened The Attic, which sells affordable homeware.
Lianne Simpson, founder and managing director of the charitable social enterprise, has been amazed at the way the venture has taken off.
Now she would like to see Diamond Hampers expand to more communities.
"I would like to see Pantries and Attics opening all over the country," said Lianne.
"It started two years ago this month when I decided to set up a community group. I promised my husband that it would be a small group and he rolled his eyes at me.
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"It ran from the converted garage at our home and I brought some other people in for help and support."
Diamond Hampers is run by a team of 30-40 volunteers, with just three paid staff.
Lianne, who is not paid, said it had been a record year all round, having seen the number of meals handed out jump from 108,000 last year to 280,000.
It helped 800 needy families over the last six months and before Christmas processed 25 tonnes of surplus food in just 24 hours, the amount it normally handles in a month.
Lianne said The Pantry, which is open to all, helped to reduce the stigma of using a foodbank and also prevented a huge amount of surplus food being dumped.
She said they also worked closely with other organisations to help create a long-term future for their clients.
"Going to a foodbank can cause a stigma and we want to make a better and sustainable future for the people who use it," Lianne said.
She said a £3 basket of food at the shop which is open daily, could have a normal retail value of up to £40. Products include items at their best before date, have damaged packaging or have reached the end of a season, such as Christmas goods.
Lianne, 36, a mother of five who has a debilitating form of arthritis, was a guest at a carol concert at Westminster Abbey hosted by the Duchess of Cambridge and attended by members of the royal family, including Prince William.
Diamond Hampers has also been shortlisted for three awards in a business awards scheme.