Causeway Chronicle

Choice supports vital community work in Ballymena

Pictured from left to right is MEA Affordable Food Club support staff worker Dane Kyle, Carol Ervine (Choice Housing’s Group Director of Tenant and Client Services), Emily Chestnut (MEA Affordable Food Club Ballymena co-ordinator), Aidan McCrea (Choice Housing’s Financial Inclusion Officer) and MEA Affordable Food Club support staff worker Caroline Archer.

A Social Supermarket launched 18 months ago to help vulnerable families living in the Ballymena area has received an additional £5,000 in support through Choice Housing’s Tenant Support Fund.

Located in the town’s Mid and East Antrim (MEA) Community Hub, the MEA Affordable Food Club offers intermediary support with food shopping to those in crisis with input from their referral agents. This referral system ensures families in need are identified and supported to receive grocery shopping each week that is nutritionally balanced.

This vital donation has enabled more stock to be purchased, and another 100 families added, taking the total number up to 300. It also means that as many as 500 people are now benefiting from the services the local charity provides.

Carol Ervine, Group Director of Tenant and Client Services at Choice, said: “Providing quality, affordable housing is just one part of what we do at Choice, and we are committed to working with and supporting organisations like the Affordable Food Club to help those most in need through our Tenant Support Fund.

“Social Supermarkets across Northern Ireland are seeing an increase in demand for their services due to the cost-of-living crisis and this will help those struggling to afford the essentials which, when faced with a change in personal circumstances, can make such a difference.”

MEA Affordable Food Club provides members with quality produce to cook healthy meals for their families for a small, weekly membership fee. And as part of their ‘Wraparound Support Service’, benefits and debt advice, budgeting and cooking courses, counselling services and employability initiatives are also offered to families.

Michele Campbell, Operations Director at Affordable Food Club, said: “We are very much indebted to Choice, and we are incredibly grateful to them for thinking of us.

“Thanks to this donation, Affordable Food Club can help and support an even greater number of families – it really makes a considerable difference to so many people locally.

“We’ve seen a 50 per cent uptake in the demand for our service over the last 12 months, so extra funding like this is absolutely vital for our sustainability and allows us to reach out to more people.

“By being part of an affordable food club like ours, it gives people support with food provision and allows them to save money that can cover gas or oil or electricity due to the cost-of-living crisis.”

MEA Affordable Food Club is one of four ‘Social Supermarkets’ to receive £5,000 through the Choice Tenant Support Fund, which was established in 2021 in response to the escalating cost of living crisis.

In 2023-24 a fund of £100,000 was allocated to directly assist tenants. At the 2023 UK Affordable Housing Awards, the Tenant Support Fund was recognised as part of Choice’s ‘Financial Inclusion Initiative of the Year’.

Causeway Chronicle

Causeway Chronicle