Just off junction 36 on the M1, in Wentworth near Barnsley, is the head office of Company Shop, a business that has prospered by selling in-date, surplus food that would otherwise go to waste. Not anyone can buy it though, mostly those working in food companies – hence the name. It is also a business model that inspired its founder and chairman, John Marren, to set up Community Shop, a community interest company designed to help those on ‘the cusp of food poverty’ but ‘wanting to make a positive step change in their lives’. The pilot store, set up in the nearby, once thriving, mining town of Goldthrope, has attracted a lot of interest in the UK as the need for emergency food assistance has grown over the past few years. A second store opened in London in 2014.
When I met John on a platform at the York Festival of Ideas in June, I was struck by his enthusiasm, charisma and commitment, and wanted to know more about the model upon which the Community Shop idea was based – Company Shop. Later that month, we met first in the Goldthrope Community Shop, then we went to the head office of Company Shop, where he first told me about how that business developed and his thinking behind creating community shop:
We then went on a tour of the site:
And here are some photos of what I saw.