A CHARITY is turning to a new solution to help thousands of people struggling to make ends meet.

Emmaus is an organisation which helps homeless people to get back on their feet but the group is turning its hand to helping the thousands of individuals in Bolton who cannot afford food by launching its own pantry.

Lucie’s Pantry - named after a companion of the charity’s French founder Abbé Pierre - is similar to a foodbank but offers a wider range of food that can be accessed by its members all year round.

Users pay a fee of £2.50 each week and are able to visit the site and fill up their basket with food worth between £20 and £25.

Tony Stephenson, executive lead at Emmaus, said this system helps remove the stigma which can sometimes develop around foodbanks, where visitors are given food for free after being referred by another organisation.

“There are still a lot of people out there who need this service to feed their families, the problem hasn’t gone away and there’s us and other organisations battling this issue,” he said.

“The number of people who are short of food is in the thousands but it’s a bit like homelessness, there’s an awful lot of people who are struggling out there who are below the radar.

“Food banks are a charity and there’s a stigma about that. That’s why the pantry is so important because it removes that stigma.”

The Emmaus pantry will be the latest project of its kind to open in Bolton after another charity, Urban Outreach, launched their own version in Johnson Fold in 2015.

People who use food banks are usually referred by another organisation and are able to visit the service a few times a year but pantry users will be able to come back each week to stock up on food.

In addition, Mr Stephenson said Emmaus wants to give people fresher food, rather than the long-lasting products usually preferred by food banks.

He said: “One of the things about a foodbank is that you get dried or canned goods. What we want to do is give people fresh fruit and veg. Just because we are on a low income doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to eat healthily.”

The Salford branch of Emmaus launched its own pantry in 2017 and organisers say they are already supporting as many as 130 members each week who in turn provide food for up to 450 family members.

Mr Stephenson hopes the pantry service will fit with the charity's other aims, especially to help support former homeless people who have left the organisation's Fletcher Street compound to find a job and somewhere to live.

“Not everybody makes it first time, sometimes we do see people come back because they haven’t been able to make things sustainable first time around," he said.

“This helps with part of that problem, when people move on from homelessness they need to be able to stay sustainable.

"Plus, we will be able to support not just people who have come from here but other people who have been homeless.”

The building which will house the pantry has already been built but organisers are hoping to be able to connect with referral partners, such as community groups, churches and housing associations, to identify people who need to join before the service opens next month.

They also need more donations of food which will be used to feed people who join the pantry and further volunteers interested in helping with the operations.

Anyone who can help should contact Emmaus via: www.emmaus.org.uk/bolton.