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What part does your business play in the community?  


These days businesses are mostly operated from behind a screen and customers can be accessed remotely across the globe with the result that their owners can be left feeling irrelevant to their local communities, even cut off.  


Yes, we love all this new global business-enabling tech but at the same time it is sad that a lot of small businesses do not participate in their community in the way they once did. We are all still products of the communities we grow up in, live in and work in and we can all benefit from plugging in to the everyday things happening around us, whatever the nature of our business. 


At SIGNAL we feel it is really important for the owner of every business and their team to feel a part of their local community. Belonging and participating is what makes us feel connected - which is great for wellbeing and morale but also very useful for the reputation of the business itself. No one can build a business alone, as we so often say! 


SIGNAL - a workspace and business support provider in Whitehill and Bordon - is hyper-local in its demography which means that we are very aware of our position within the local community. It makes sense to do everything we can to be a real contributor here in Whitehill and Bordon. 


As well as office rentals and business support, SiGNAL plays a facilitator role in the community making sure that our team and our customers and members are fully engaged in the regeneration process and participating in local events. 


This month we are looking for community initiatives where businesses can easily get involved and make a difference. One of these initiatives is the Community Pantry at Café 1759 organised by Susi Drummond.   


I caught up with Susi to learn more about this project and find out how local businesses can get involved… 


Q. Last month you launched the Community Pantry at Café 1759, can you tell me more about the initiative?

A. We launched the Community Pantry based on a successful model being run elsewhere in Hampshire and the New Forest. A Community Pantry can provide food shopping at very low prices as a result of local partnerships. You can see the foods available each week displayed at the 1759 Café. For a membership of £1 annually you can come and purchase a bag of shopping once a week.  

Q. Where does the food come from?

A. We are partnered with Fareshare, a charity who collect food from retailers that would otherwise go to waste. We order food by weight, we don’t know what’s going to be delivered in advance, then we price it according to a points system and get it out on the shelves. Its proved quite tricky balancing the supply/demand/price equation but we are improving each week 


Q. What do you hope to deliver for the community?

A. The important thing is that for just a few pounds you can pick up a good family shop each week. It’s much cheaper than the supermarkets. We are seeing so many working families going into food poverty locally, that we can see this pantry and others like it are going to be lifelines for many people this


Q. How does the Community Pantry at 1759 differ from a Food Bank?

A. Obviously, the difference is that a food bank is free to use, however there is an important social distinction - I think if you are a family new to food poverty it feels less of a culture shock to use the pantry than a food bank, as it’s still paid for food.   


Q. What has demand been like and who is using the service?

A. As you would expect in a cost-of-living crisis, demand has been extremely high. Anyone struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table will use the service which is a lot of people nowadays. A lot of working families too, sadly you can now have two partners working in a family unit and still find yourself in food poverty which has never been the case before. 


Q. How can local business help? 

A. We are always in need of volunteers on a Wednesday morning when the deliveries arrive 


Q. How should they get in touch? 

A. Email Susi on [email protected]


The SiGNAL team will definitely be helping Susi out on a Wednesday morning, it would be great to see some other local businesses there too!