Sustain Good Food Enterprise Connecting Community Food Enterprises Case studies

Connecting Community Food Enterprises Case Study: BrightStore Whitehawk

People buying vegetables at an affordable food scheme. Credit: BrightStore Whitehawk

People buying vegetables at an affordable food scheme. Credit: BrightStore Whitehawk

BrightStore Whitehawk

BrightStore Whitehawk is an affordable food scheme based in a children’s centre in one of the most deprived Wards of Brighton and Hove. It is one of three BrightStores in the city set up to help tackle food insecurity in a longer-term, more sustainable way. BrightStore Whitehawk opened in November 2021 supported by Brighton & Hove Food Partnership and the Roundabout Children's Centre. Every BrightStore location also has additional support services available on site or nearby and a local food bank.

Business Model
BrightStore Whitehawk is a pop-up food shop which opens on Thursday afternoons and serves 50-75 households each week. The shop is available to anyone resident within a 20-minute walk of the children’s centre. There are six part-time staff members, equating to two full-time workers, and 80 volunteers across all BrightStores. Members make a suggested payment of between £4-6 per shop (depending on the size of the household) but can pay more if they have the means to make a solidarity contribution. Customers are able to pay for their whole shop using their Healthy Start card if they wish, as a large proportion of the food they receive is fresh fruit and vegetables, which itself comes to a value greater than the £4-6. The shop also sells UHT milk for £1 per litre and local free-range eggs at for £1.50 for 6.

The store developed following food aid provision that was set up during the lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Roundabout Children’s Centre started providing emergency food parcels, then vouchers to families. Later the need for a BrightStore affordable food scheme model was identified, to allow customers to pay a small amount to receive a wider range of products in a more dignified manner. Brighton and Hove City Council funded BrightStore for the first year.

The scheme is oversubscribed so they run a waiting list for membership with a sign-up form available in store or on their website.

BrightStore don’t provide additional wraparound support services themselves, but the shop is located in a Children’s Centre, and where appropriate they refer members to the Children’s Centre team, Pelican Parcels, who provide families in need of support with essentials such as beds, clothes, toys, uniforms, nappies and toiletries for children up to age 12, and other local support services.

Healthy Start promotion at BrightStore Whitehawk. Credit: Isabel Rice
Credit: Isabel Rice


Impact on the community

“People call us the fruit and veg place”

Staff and volunteers from the shop report that friendships have developed through people attending the scheme, members report an improved sense of wellbeing, and volunteers feel purposeful. Members of the shop are a diverse mix of people who are now forming connections and getting to know each other, when before many people used to keep themselves to themselves.

A recent survey of BrightStore members showed: 

  • 49% have long term health conditions or disabilities 
  • 30% are primary carers, either of children or adults 
  • 52% members live in council housing, 12% live in social housing by another provider, 7% are homeless, 16% live in private rental accommodation and 10% are owner occupiers
  • Members of the shops are more ethnically diverse than the city's population, with 9% of members identifying as Black, 4.6% as Asian, 1.5% as mixed race, 3% as other, and 70% as White. 9% of members are Muslim.

Regarding the impact of attending BrightStore, the three most common answers relating to the food were:

  1. I have saved money (75%)
  2. I can eat better within my budget (58%)
  3. I eat more veg (39%)

For other benefits the top three answers were:

  1. I feel more connected to other people (48%)
  2. I feel happier (42%)
  3. I have learned about other services/ activities (39%)           

80% of Brightstore’s volunteer team members are recruited from their store membership, and volunteer retention is high, as volunteers are supported and valued. In some cases volunteers have gone on to become part-time staff members.

Reaching a diverse community

BrightStore is a welcoming environment, with the team giving time and thought into being an inclusive and safe space that people want to return to.

BrightStore promotional materials are translated into Arabic and Ukrainian, and they encourage anyone referring someone for whom English is a second language to come along to help to translate for their first session (although all the volunteers are getting very good at using Google translate!). They work collaboratively with various organisations who refer urgent cases, more often from minoritised groups.

Additionally, many BrightStore members have recommended the scheme to their families, neighbours and friends which has diversified the membership. All BrightStore venues are fully accessible, and they offer a 'quiet shop' to anyone with sensory or access issues just before opening time. They have volunteers who are neurodivergent or have long term illnesses or disabilities, which enables them to give first hand support and understanding to shoppers and each other. 

BrightStore is connecting with other organisations to promote their shops to more communities.  The shop works to ensure they show a diverse range of people in their social media and publicity materials to encourage people from diverse backgrounds to feel welcome.  They promote a range of organisations via their bulletin, e.g. LGBTQ+ helplines, International Women's group events to meet the needs of their diverse member group and help different communities to feel seen and included.

Food supply

Members can choose which items they want, and typically receive fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, bread, ambient staples and toiletries. The shop does not have fridges or freezers so they don’t provide produce that requires chilled storage such as fresh meat or fish. They also stock non-dairy/plant-based milks, gluten free and vegan products. The shop limits the amount of products available which are high in fat, salt and sugar, and provide a large range of fresh fruit and vegetables to promote healthier eating.  Members have been polled on the food types they find most useful, which has been used to shape the products sold at the shop.

FareShare are their main supplier of food, with 60-70% of produce being surplus food. BrightStore Whitehawk spend an additional £150 per week on fresh fruit and vegetables from wholesalers, Morrisons and Fruit Bowl. They find the deliveries to be reliable, however the surplus food received is not always healthy or appropriate.

Fruit and veg stall at BrightStore Whitehawk. Credit: BrightStore Whitehawk
Credit: Isabel Rice

Funding and opportunities for social investment

Trading largely covers the weekly food costs bringing in approximately £13,000 per year, however, it does not cover the operational costs of running the scheme. This includes staff costs, with each BrightStore having a Store Lead, nor does it cover petrol and equipment costs, all of which are currently covered by grants.

Brighton and Hove Council funded the project for the first year, investing to help the shop to get off the ground. BrightStore has received additional funding for purchasing fruit and vegetables from the Household Support Fund, as well as funding from Enjoolata, the People’s Post Code Lottery and the National Lottery Community Fund to pay for staffing, Fareshare subscriptions, petrol and other expenses. Therefore, at present, the scheme is dependent on grant funding. BrightStore is exploring additional activities to bring in income and make the scheme more financially sustainable, such as running a veg box scheme to more affluent areas of the city and selling zero waste products.

By accepting Healthy Start cards, they are able to increase the options for local people of where they can spend their Healthy Start entitlement, and access this as an income stream, retaining this money in the local economy.

BrightStore Whitehawk report the main challenges of running the project as:

  • Getting enough good quality, healthy food as they currently rely on surplus food which is unpredictable
  • Getting enough volunteers
  • Fitting the shop around the children’s centre services and activities
  • The rising cost of food and the challenges of fundraising to continue the project

They highlight these challenges as significant threats to the sustainability of the project.

Future plans and aspirations
By participating in the Connecting Community Food Enterprises project, BrightStore had access to expert business support and peer learning to learn from other organisations. BrightStore Whitehawk are particularly interested in developing their financial models and strategic thinking, to work towards a more sustainable model of trading, and explore options for a better and more reliable food supply. To explore this, they are taking part in a course delivered by the School for Social Entrepreneurs, to help them develop a sustainable business plan which will also deliver social impact. This course will help them to become more financially sustainable by increasing their trading models and diversifying their income streams. 

Going forwards BrightStore Whitehawk plan to start making frozen food available in stores. They are exploring the possibility of receiving frozen food deliveries by cargo bike, in a project run jointly with FareShare Sussex and Surrey.

Brighton and Hove Food Partnership

Started by residents in 2003, Brighton and Hove Food Partnership is a not-for-profit organisation which works with a wide range of partners including community organisations, statutory agencies, local businesses, and individual residents. The Food Partnership delivers a range of food projects which have helped over 15,000 local people learn to cook, grow their own food, eat a healthier diet and waste less. Much of their work benefits vulnerable adults and people experiencing deprivation, isolation, poor health and other life challenges.

Their work has been recognised by independent bodies – most recently awarded ‘Non-profit of the year’ 2019 at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards, ‘Team of the Year’ at the Cost Sector Catering Awards 2019 and the ‘Community Benefit Award’ at the 2019 Southeast RICS awards for the build project to create the Community Kitchen. They led Brighton & Hove’s successful submission for ‘Gold Sustainable Food City’ status.

Good Food Enterprise: Working to provide food that is good for people and the planet, and support local production playing a part in community beyond trading.

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