Choice supports vital community work across Northern Ireland

Four Social Supermarkets in Northern Ireland will be able to provide much-needed support to people and families thanks to a £20,000 donation from one of the region’s largest housing providers, Choice Housing,

The five-figure sum has been awarded to two Belfast-based charities, In This Together and Footprints Women’s Centre, as well as Lisburn Food Bank and Affordable Food Club in Ballymena. Each of the four charities will receive £5,000, and between them they offer an important service to thousands of people through referral agents, ensuring support gets to those who are most in need of it.

Awarded through Choice Housing’s Tenant Support Fund, the funding means that shelves remain stocked for the months ahead as supplies of tinned and frozen foods and other essentials can be bought by those trying to make ends meet in a cost-of-living crisis for a small, weekly nominal fee.

Small changes from falling ill for a couple of days and being off work, to being made redundant in the short-term, is enough to leave people unable to afford to buy food, pay rent or utility bills.

Carol Ervine, Choice Housing’s Group Director of Tenant and Client Services said: “Providing quality, affordable housing is just one part of what we do at Choice, we are committed to making a positive difference in local communities and to working with and supporting organisations like these exemplary charities, to help those most in need through our Tenant Support Fund.

“In This Together, Footprints Women’s Centre, Lisburn Food Bank and the Affordable Food Club are a lifeline to those struggling to afford the essentials and unfortunately, over the last number of years, demand for these type of services has risen dramatically. I would like to pay tribute to those who work at the four charities and the role they play in trying to combat poverty and hunger in their communities.”

Approximately 4,200 Choice owned properties fall within the catchment areas these four Social Supermarkets operate in, and each of these can avail of the services offered by the social supermarkets.

Michele Campbell, the Affordable Food Club’s Operations Director, said: “We are very much indebted to Choice Housing and we’re incredibly grateful to them for thinking of us. We have seen a 50 per cent uptake in the demand for our service over the last twelve months and extra funding like this is absolutely vital for our sustainability and allows us to reach out to more people.”

Lisburn Food Bank Manager, Lynsey Agnew BEM, added: “The help from Choice’s Tenant Support Fund has allowed us to meet the growing demand on our Social Supermarket.

“The struggle of being the only adult in a house and having to cover bills on one income is enough to push them into poverty. With our support they can get back on their feet.”

Commenting on the extra financial support, Eileen Wilson, Footprints Women’s Centre’s Food Services and Sustainable Living Manager said: “The Choice Tenant Support Fund enables us to supplement this supply when necessary, reaching more people who are currently experiencing food insecurity. We are extremely grateful to Choice’s Tenant Support Fund for their generosity and support for local families.”

A fund that tackles financial hardship across Northern Ireland, Choice Housing’s Tenant Support Fund was recognised at last year’s UK Affordable Housing Awards. Introduced in 2021/22 as part of its Financial Inclusion Services, it won the ‘Financial Inclusion Initiative of the Year’ category.

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