Final report of Pthways Project


Information about the work of the project December 2022

What have we learned?


  1. We have learned that food poverty and insecurity are getting worse, as are skills shortages in food production, distribution and retail. Together with the cost of living crisis this has greatly increased the demand for pantries and other food aid projects while the dwindling supplies of surplus and donated food due to the cost of living crisis, increasing supermarket efficiencies and skills shortages continue to restrict the supply of surplus food available to pantries and other food aid projects.


  1. At the same time post pandemic emergency food aid funding has decreased along with the supplies of surplus food, so pantries and other food aid projects are unable to fill the gap by buying-up wholesale bulk-buy supplies of non-surplus food. The need for our project to generate new income streams for pantries to replace that pandemic funding has therefore increased markedly.


  1. This increasing demand and decreasing supply of surplus food has therefore greatly increased the demand for our project and its business model. Once we started talking to people about the project, we were inundated with requests to help set up something similar in other areas right across the country and not just in Stockport and Greater Manchester where we originally envisaged the project would be piloted.


  1. So as well as the pilot in Stockport, we have also been invited to facilitate the delivery of similar initiatives in Rochdale, Oldham, Salford, Burnley, Hull, North Wales, Nottingham and Exeter. We have also been approached by projects in Croydon, Leeds and Lancaster and we have begun discussions with Stockport Homes for a future project to roll out the model across their national ‘Your Local Pantry’ social franchise network.


  1. Much of this wider enthusiasm for the project was stimulated by an invitation to us to make a presentation on the project at the launch of Incredible Edible’s Campaign for the Community Right to Grow on Public Land at a reception at the House of Lords  Our evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ending the Need for Food Banks (see attached) also had a similar effect.


  1. However, despite this real, continuing and increasing demand for the project across the country, we learned early on in the project that the business model for its delivery as originally planned would need to be amended after probation nationally decided that Community Payback placements with supermarkets could not be allowed because they are commercial bodies, even though the placements with them were to have been used to generate funds for pantry and other food aid charities and not for private profit. See original Project Business Model below.


Original Project Business Model


The original Project Business Model was to use Community Payback (CP) workers to raise funds for pantries while providing a pathway into paid employment for themselves, lifting them and pantry members out of food poverty. The intention was that they would start their CP work as pantry volunteers and complete it in work trials with supermarkets who would guarantee at least an interview for paid employment on successful completion of their CP work at the supermarket. The supermarket would then make a charitable donation to the pantry equivalent to the monetary value of the CP worker's unpaid work trial as fulfilment of both the CP community benefit requirement and their own Corporate Social Responsibility commitments. This would then enable the pantries to bulk-buy food to supplement dwindling supplies of surplus and donated food without increasing pantry membership fees.


Discussions with independent pantries, the Your Local Pantry network and probation regionally in Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands and the South West resulted in the following revised business model which was accepted by all parties concerned and is now at various stages of development in all the areas above. See revised Project Business Model below.


Revised Project Business Model

Pantries collectively grow their own fresh seasonal fruit, veg and salads for their members to supplement the dwindling supplies of surplus and donated food available to them. They also grow additional commercial vegetable cash crops and manufacture other commercial value-added food and farmed products to generate an income to enable them to bulk buy their own supplies of non-surplus food to supplement the dwindling supplies of surplus and donated food and thus replace the dwindling covid grant funding available to them. Community Payback work teams do all the growing and have the opportunity of individual payback placements working in the pantries as well. Guaranteed interviews and other structured progression routes into paid employment and self-employment in the wider food retail and related sectors are then made available to those successfully completing their unpaid work requirements in the growing teams and pantry retail placements.

The most important thing we have learned is that the need for the work is real and continuing and we have developed a more practical and appropriate project Business Model to meet that need. We are continuing to lobby Community Payback nationally to reconsider the original Project Business Model, but moving forward, the expected return to austerity policies by government leads us to believe that the demand for the revised Project Business Model will also increase rather than reduce. As such we are at the present time continuing to support the existing work and will plan to apply for additional development and roll-out funding in early 2023


Project ID: 20193674

How many people got involved in the project?


Stockport - Total 22

Comprising:    2 Stockport Homes Pantry staff

5 Pantry volunteers

5 Community Payback Pantry volunteers

8 Community Payback Growing Team members (starting Spring 2023)

2 Community Payback Managers


Burnley - Total 18

Comprising:    2 Nazareth Chapel staff

2 Burnley FC in the Community Pantry staff.

2 Pantry Volunteers

2 Community Payback Pantry volunteers

8 Community Payback Growing Team members (starting Spring 2023)

2 Community Payback Managers.


Hull - Total 26

Comprising:    1 REACH staff

8 Pantry volunteers

8 Community Payback Pantry volunteers

8 Community Payback Growing Team members (starting Spring 2023). 1 Community Payback Manager


Oldham - Total 13

Comprising:    2 St Barnabas Pantry staff

1 Pantry volunteer

1 Community Payback volunteer

8 Community Payback Growing Team members (starting Spring 2023)

1 Community Payback Manager


Rochdale - Total 15

Comprising:    3 Rochdale Food Security Network volunteers

2 Rochdale Youth Justice staff

1 Community Payback volunteer

8 Community Payback Growing Team members (starting Spring 2023)

1 Community Payback Manager


Nottingham - Total 11

Comprising:    1 Community Café volunteer

1 Community Payback Community Café volunteer

8 Community Payback Growing Team members (starting Spring 2023)

1 Community Payback Manager


Exeter - Total 11

Comprising:    1 Community Café volunteer

1 Community Payback Community Café volunteer

8 Community Payback Growing Team members (starting Spring 2023)

1 Community Payback Manager


Salford - Total 11

Comprising:    1 Community Café volunteer

1 Community Payback Community Café volunteer

8 Community Payback Growing Team members (starting Spring 2023)

1 Community Payback Manager


North Wales - Total 8

Comprising:    5 project development volunteers

3 probation volunteers (Foodbank Growing Team)


Total involved at project closure 135


71 people involved during the course of the project and continuing post closure with a further 64 due to join the project at closure as Community Payback Growing Teams.


 What did the people involved say about the project or activities?


“A really good idea that will help us all in Rochdale to help ourselves out of food poverty” Julie Durrant. Action Together Rochdale.


“This sounds like a really good project that will benefit a lot of people” Matthew Jones. Rochdale Youth Justice.


“Sounds wonderful! Just what we need…” Rev Paul Monk St Barnabas Food Cooperative Oldham.


“Thanks Dave. We definitely want to be part of this!” Anne-Marie Heil, Assistant Director, Stockport Homes Group.


“…this evolving model begins to end the false dichotomy between cash or food as an effective response to destitution and begins to end the need for emergency food aid in the form of food banks by presenting a sustainable cooperative alternative”. Andy Dorton, Church of England Social Responsibility Officer for Hull.


“This is just the sort of project we want to work on in future – long term, sustainable and meaningful work that people on payback can see helps the community as well as helping themselves”. Ronnie Shaw,  Community Payback Placement Coordinator, Salford.

As discussed Community Payback would be keen to be involved in the project from the start, getting the site ready, installing the fence and then creating the garden/growing areas and then continuing to work on the project going forward. We are able to offer a long term commitment to this project.

I feel that this is a unique project for us in the area that meets a number of our delivery aims and aspirations. Not only is this a great project to meet the Community Payback criteria -Community focused, rigorous and demanding- it also offers wide opportunities for learning and skill development. Also, the potential opportunities for our People on Probation to gain qualifications in horticulture and food hygiene are a key factor. The development if team building skills and community integration are also prevalent in the project, which again allow us to meet our ultimate aim of rehabilitation.  We also discussed the real potential for us to offer women only Community payback sessions which is crucial in terms of our provisions for women in the area”. Stephanie Baxter, UPW Operations Manager – East and Central Lancashire Probation.


“Can’t wait for my next shift!” Community Payback Worker St Barnabas Food Cooperative


“Better than litter picking!” Community Payback Worker Stockport Pantries


“I’d like to get a paid job doing this sort of thing when I’ve done my hours” Community Payback Worker Stockport Pantries


“It’s something to get up for that I really enjoy – it doesn’t matter that it’s the Court that says I have to do it.” Community Payback Worker Salford


“It’s a life-saver for us – with this extra income we can guarantee our members a regular supply of staples like bread, butter, milk and eggs”. Pantry Coordinator, Hull


“The payback volunteers in the pantry are really keen and ready to help all our members when they come in for a shop. How would we manage without them?” Pantry Coordinator Stockport.


“The project is fantastic – but it’ll really take off next growing season when you’ll be fund-raising for us as well as supplying fresh food. Brilliant!” Pantry Coordinator, Burnley.


What went well

The Revised Project Business Model was developed and implemented smoothly by all stakeholders enthusiastically engaging and pulling together after the bombshell of the Community Payback national ruling early in the Project’s development that a key element of the Original Project Business Model would not now be possible (Community Payback placements in supermarkets). This also demonstrated to us the strong demand for the aims of the project to develop sustainable Payback Pathways to Employment and Food Security.


The strong national and regional interest and engagement enabled the building of strong and sustainable local partnerships quickly.


Each local partnership developed its own organisational structure and approach according to the local context, thus underlining how bottom-up grassroots work can and should influence the delivery of social programmes designed to help grassroots community organisations like food pantries.


Not only has the project attracted the interest of probation community payback, but also in some areas it has also been enthusiastically embraced by Youth Justice Community Reparation and probation Approved Premises volunteers as well.


The interest in the Project from across the UK and from both Probation Community Payback and Youth Justice Community Reparation means we now have ‘proof of concept’ and are ready to “…base a national roll-out on learning from the project and produce a template for Community Payback with other charities and employers nationwide” as envisaged in the original Project Plan. We intend to start this process in 2023 with an application for further development funding.


What could have gone better


  1. We should have cleared our proposals with Community Payback nationally at the project design stage, but the enthusiasm for the project from Community Payback locally led us to believe that this would not be necessary.


  1. We should have promoted and lobbied for the adoption of the Original Project Business Model prior to beginning its mobilisation – we tried to do too much too quickly.


  1. The need to develop a Revised Project Business Model quickly meant that we did not have sufficient time to develop effective structured pathways to paid employment for people successfully completing their Community Payback on the project, so this element of the project has so far remained under-developed.


  1. Exactly the same can be said of the commercial growing element of the project.


  1. Progress in Stockport – the original main focus of the pilot was slower than with the later adopters in other parts of the country, despite them being originally brought on board by contact with Stockport.


  1. The capacity of Community Payback to meet the level of demand for the project varied across the country, thus delaying full mobilisation in some areas.


What could be done differently next time


  1. Accept that each new local project will have unique development needs according to their local context. Thus, for example, some will need access to growing expertise where Community Payback Supervisors don’t have this. Others primary development need will simply be access to suitable land for growing. Others will likewise have different development needs. Each new project’s needs will be different.


  1. Our role in the development process of new local projects will be more  the identification of development needs and facilitating the meeting of those needs rather than direct delivery.


  1. We need to do much more thorough business planning for the commercial growing element of the project much earlier in the development process for each new local project.


  1. We need to develop structured pathways to employment with local and national employers much earlier in the development process for each new local project.


  1. We need to investigate the appetite for a more formal national network of these local projects, offering ongoing mutual support, learning and development – a “learning and support community”.


What difference did the project make to the community


  1. The project has successfully developed a replicable model of sustainable food distribution for people in food poverty, run by people in food poverty for the benefit of people in food poverty and their local communities.


  1. The project has successfully developed a replicable model of Community Payback by offenders, paying back the local communities against whom they have offended by supplying them with good quality affordable food.


  1. The project has successfully developed a model of Community Payback by offenders, decided, planned and supervised by the local communities who have been their victims – “putting the community back into payback”


  1. The project has started to develop a model of Community Payback opening up access to employment for offenders which helps reduce their reoffending against their local communities – using Community Payback to improve community safety by improving food security.


  1. The project has developed a template for widening justice involvement in food security, building on the difference the Community Payback project has made to local communities by opening the model up to Youth Justice and probation Approved Premises volunteers and potentially prisoners released on temporary licence as well – “ POPs (People on Probation) and PIPs (People in Prison) Pathways to Employment and Food Security”.



Despite some difficulties we feel that the project has been very successful and exceeded all expectations. We have created a working model that we now want to put into action. This is because the work has been started but there is still a lot of work to do to make sure that the models become fully operational

We have plans to take the work in North Wales further and we are actively doing this with the local partners. This will be a separate development with Nornir providing support and advice.

 We would like to develop the work in the other areas by applying for additional funds. This will enable us to support the setup of operational Payback Pathway communities.