Challenges, chilly weather and… chinchilla food – a glimpse into the Eastleigh Basics Bank

Welcome stores position themselves at the heart of the community – and we understand the part we have to play in giving back to those who shop with us and live and work around us.

Built on challenging times

One of the organisations we work with is the Eastleigh Basics Bank, which started in May 2011 after the Churches of Eastleigh, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak recognised there may be a shortage of essentials in the area following the 2008 crash. As the years went on, it has become apparent the need was far greater than they could have anticipated!

Since 2011, the church-led community foodbank and other basics project has constantly changed and adapted to whatever circumstances the community are facing. Right now, it’s the cost-of-living crisis that is pulling on the Eastleigh foodbank’s resources, but in previous years it’s been recessions and of course the pandemic.

Pre-covid, there was space and time to offer a cup of tea or coffee and someone to chat with clients, whilst they waited for their package to be made up. However, since covid and with the continued growth in demand they’ve had to use that space for ensuring food is packed ready for clients to collect as soon as they arrive. It is one of their top priorities over the coming year to find a way to offer that safe space to talk and have a coffee again as they believe it is as important as the food and essentials itself.

A community resource through and through

People need to be referred to the foodbank by partner agencies; housing associations, councils, social services, NHS, schools, churches and various local charities, many of whom have an ongoing connection with those they refer so understand their circumstances.

Eastleigh Basics Bank is very focused on meeting the physical needs of the community, but they very much see themselves as an emergency support, as opposed to dependency support. That’s why they operate a referral system, so that where possible they can also provide links to services locally that might help people with more long-term solutions to any challenges they might be facing.

Mythbusting

There are several misconceptions surrounding foodbanks that might surprise you.

1. Tinned foods are not always right! At one point, Eastleigh Basics Bank were actually turning away donations of baked beans because they had more than they knew what to do with. They keep an up-to-date shopping list on their website – so if you are considering making a donation, check here first! You might have some of these lurking in your cupboards already.

2. A lot of people who use foodbanks are in full-time work. It’s a sad fact that costs have increased so much, many visitors that use the foodbank are successful in their careers but just don’t quite have enough left to feed themselves, however;

3. Many people rarely have to use a foodbank regularly. There’s a common misconception that people come back week after week and this is rare. In fact, Eastleigh Basics Bank is more likely to hear stories from people who come back to tell them how they’ve got back on their feet and are grateful for the help given when they’ve needed it.

Chilly weather… and chinchilla food?

As you’d expect, the busiest time of year at the foodbank is during the winter. Energy bills increase as lights go on for longer and we switch the heating on – and some people can struggle to cope.

Perhaps what you may not expect, is that feeding humans is a given – but people need to feed their pets too! Once, the Eastleigh Basics Bank was asked if they had any chinchilla food that they could have, but also, odd things are donated on occasion – so when they come in, they are put on a front table for people to help themselves to!

To donate to Eastleigh Basics Bank, you can do so using the PayPal link here, but you can also donate food at the collection points at your local Welcome store.

Lentil & vegetable soup with crispy carrot topper

With a hint of curry, this tasty soup is a super-quick option.

  • Feeds 4Feeds 4
  • Ready in 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 300g leftover potato and carrot curry
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (from your storecupboard)
  • 300g leftover cooked lentils
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil (from your storecupboard)
  • 1 carrot, peeled into ribbons with a veg peeler
  • Pinch of curry powder
  • Chopped coriander, to garnish (optional)

Method

  1. Put the leftover curry into a blender with 200ml cold water and blitz until smooth
  2. Tip into a saucepan with an additional 500ml water and crumble over the stock cube
  3. Season with black pepper and bring to a simmer
  4. Add the lentils, reduce the heat and cook for 5 mins
  5. While the soup is cooking, heat the oil in a small nonstick frying pan and cook the carrot ribbons a few at a time over a high heat, for 1-2 mins, until golden at the edges
  6. Drain on kitchen paper
  7. While still hot, toss with a pinch of curry powder
  8. Divide the soup between bowls and top with the crispy carrot
  9. Serve garnished with chopped coriander, if you like

Each serving contains

  • Energy 8% 715kj 170kcal
  • Fat Low 6% 4.4g
  • Saturates Low 3% 0.5g
  • Sugar Low 4% 3.6g
  • Salt Med 11% 0.66g

% of adult’s reference intake | Carbohydrates per serving : 25

Delivering on our eco-friendly promises this Big Energy Saving Week

In an era where environmental consciousness is paramount, Welcome Stores is making good on its promise to improve sustainability across the business with a few small – but mighty – changes behind the scenes.

This week is Big Energy Saving Week – 17th 23rd January

Big Energy Saving Week is an annual event that makes us all reflect on ways we can all make small changes for the greater good.

We respect and understand the part our business plays in making greener choices – it’s one of the reasons why we’ve taken a sustainability pledge.

Food Waste is one of our biggest focus areas.

Not only is this wasteful from a cost and supply perspective, it seems a shame to use a commodity that we take for granted in such a way, when others can benefit from it.

We keep a close eye on how much is thrown in the bin on a daily basis, with the focus on tighter controls. Our system orders what we expect to supply to customers and has proven an asset in 2020 in keeping food waste to a minimum. In addition any waste which now leaves does so with a new return process to Co-op, General waste and Food wastes are separated on return along with our Cardboard and Plastic recycling which was already in place.

Speaking of plastic recycling…

…You may have also seen our plastic-free stations in our Brockenhurst and Fair Oak stores. This enables customers to only shop for what they need so that it reduces food waste and encourages the re-using of plastic containers. We have also supported a local author and started to set up a plastic awareness module with local schools.

Shopping local

Wherever possible, Welcome stores will always try to source locally supplied produce – not only does this reduce our carbon footprint, but we like to help out other small businesses too!

We went one step further and set up the Welcome Project and if you spot one of our “Welcome Project” labelled items in store, it means you are buying one of our 1,000 sustainable alternative lines which are made up of:

  • 375 locally sourced products
  • 128 plastic-free items
  • 506 environmentally friendly lines – which include recycled, recyclable, responsibly sourced, meat-free, organic and biodegradable

And it doesn’t stop there.

We’ve implemented energy-efficient technologies across our stores, optimising lighting and heating systems to minimise energy consumption. The use of LED lighting, for instance, not only contributes to a significant reduction in energy usage but also provides a more vibrant and aesthetically pleasing shopping environment.

We hope you’ve inspired you to make some of your own small changes this Big Energy Saving Week!

Want to read more about our sustainability pledge? Click here.

Leftover Cheeseboard Macaroni

Turn your party leftovers into the star of the show with this comforting cheesy creation.

  • Feeds 4Feeds 4
  • Ready in 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 pints Co-op semi skimmed milk
  • 250g Co-op macaroni
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 150g leftover mixed cheeses, a mixture of blue, mature and rinded is ideal, crumbled, grated or cubed depending on style
  • 600-700g leftover cooked vegetables (or fresh, see tip), including sprouts, carrots, peas
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2-3 tbsp cranberry sauce
  • 4 cream crackers to crumble on top, optional

Method

  1. In your largest saucepan, gently heat the milk, macaroni and bay leaf, stirring until it begins to simmer. Cook over a low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until the pasta is just cooked. Season with lots of black pepper.
  2. Meanwhile, chop veg into bite sized pieces.
  3. Heat grill to high. To the pan, add three quarters of the cheeses and the cooked vegetables and cook for 2 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the vegetables are hot. Stir in the mustard and discard the bay leaf, season with plenty of black pepper. Pour into a 1.5-2 litre heatproof dish, and scatter with the remaining cheese. Add the cranberry sauce in small blobs, and ripple through the surface with a spoon. Place under the hot grill for 2-3 minutes until golden and bubbling.
  4. Optional: Crumble cream crackers and scatter on top to serve.

TIP: if using fresh veg, boil 2 large sliced carrots for 10 minutes, then add 200g sliced brussels sprouts and cook for a further 2 minutes, then add 200g frozen peas and cook for a further 2 minutes. Drain well.

Each serving contains

  • Energy 32% 2692kj 641kcal
  • Fat High 32% 22.3g
  • Saturates High 48% 9.5g
  • Sugar Low 16%14g
  • Salt Low 20%1.19g

% of adult’s reference intake | Carbohydrates per serving : 92.5

Happy New Year!

It’s another New Year and a time for celebration. We hope you all enjoyed a little bit of a break over the Christmas holidays and you’re feeling refreshed.

For us, it was just as busy as ever, but as we reflect on another successful year, it’s certainly not been without lots of exciting changes – and challenges!

As ever, we would like to thank all our customers, colleagues, suppliers and community partners for all their support in 2023 – we very much look forward to seeing what 2024 has in store for you all!

Here’s a few highlights from us.

The big changeover!

Earlier this year we were very sad to see Richard and Karen Dance take a step back from the business after more than 30 years. But, we hear that they are very much enjoying the quieter life!

They are still frequent visitors to our Brockenhurst store and do a number of things to support the community. We’d again like to express our thanks and appreciation to Richard and Karen – and we wish them all the very best.

With Richard and Karen stepping back, our six shops became part of the Southern Co-op as they celebrated their 150th anniversary year.

Back then, 30 people attended a public meeting and unanimously agreed to pay one shilling to establish a local Co-operative. Back then, the Co-Operative Society was formed by dockyard workers to tackle exploitation and inequality, and 5 months later, the Portsea Island Mutual Co-operative Society’s first shop opened in Charles Street on 9 May 1873.

There was recently a special edition of the Portsmouth News, which included a pull-out section on Southern Co-op’s beginnings as part of its 150th birthday in May – you can read it here.

Want to join us? If you’re looking for a new role and you’re interested in becoming part of our Welcome store team you can read more here.

Support for Ukraine

In April, Welcome stores teamed up with New Forest for Ukraine to donate 300 disposable barbeques that were removed from our shelves two summers ago.

Disposable barbeques are a huge risk of causing wildfires. They are devastating for ground nesting birds and other animals, and the impact is felt for years. Plus, climate change also means hotter, drier periods are inevitable, and the risk of starting a deadly fire by taking a barbecue out into the woods increases.

While they were no good to us, New Forest for Ukraine said they could make use of them, and gave them to reservists on the front line in Poland and Ukraine who used them to heat their food for daily essential cooking.

You can read more about the donation here.

New Forest for Ukraine was set up to help the war efforts in Ukraine and has since filled 100 trucks with aid, including 3,000 trauma kits, 150 generators and over 10,000 bandages.

Here’s a photo of us handing over the final batch!

Solent Mind support – and thank you

We’ve been working in partnership with Solent Mind for a few years now and they do some incredible work providing mental health support across the region.  

Not only were we thrilled to announce our partnership with them for another year, in August we handed over a cheque for £3,699.71 to help fund some of their vital services.

What’s more, this year we rolled out a partnership with Solent Mind that gives all our colleagues access to mental wellness kits, so that staff can recognise symptoms of poor mental health and how they can access help if they need it.

Being well physically and mentally is so important and as you can imagine at this time of year, keeping well can feel like a tricky task sometimes.

If you need to talk to someone, you can head to the Solent Mind website to find out more about the services available in your community.

Thank you Solent Mind for everything you do, it’s a pleasure to partner with you.

Becoming Plastic-free!

As an eco-conscious business, we were absolutely thrilled that our Brockenhurst store was recognised with “Plastic Free Community” status back in June.

As an initiative of Greener Brockenhurst, the campaign started last year after the idea was put forward at a community meeting and taken forward as a way of encouraging villagers, community groups and businesses to change habits.

It is a great achievement for the village and illustrates that there is a want and a wish to do more to reduce the amount of plastic used given the right encouragement.

Bringing Christmas cheer to Brockenhurst!

While on the topic of Brockenhurst, we thought we’d share a few pics from the fantastically festive Brockenhurst Christmas Fun Evening, an annual tradition that took place this year on Friday 1st December on Brookley Road.

Welcome Stores has had a long association with the event which was jam-packed with local acts like the Brassed Toffs Band, Magic Jack the magician and the Friday Girls, as well as stalls selling a variety of treats on offer from local businesses, activites and fairground rides.

It was great fun watching everyone get into the Christmas spirit as our colleagues set up a stall outside our shop front in Brockenhurst and handed out free mulled wine and mince pies to residents and visitors who came to enjoy all the fun of the festive fayre – and we raised an amazing £200 for our chosen charity, Solent Mind, in the process.

We also teamed up with Plastic Free Brockenhurst to offer a few things for their raffle prize – another way we wanted to collaborate with such an important organisation following Brockenhurst’s plastic-free status!

We’re already looking forward to getting involved again next year – we hope to see you all there! 

Here are some of our favourite pictures from the day.

More shout-outs and thank yous

We must also give a special mention to our wonderful suppliers who create some fantastic products all made locally.

Wishing you all a very prosperous New Year – and watch this space for more exciting news coming your way in 2024!

Got some old batteries? Empty vape cartridges lying around? We’ll take them!

The Christmas presents have been unwrapped and if you’re already tired of tripping over all the new toys, don’t worry we feel you! But what happens when toys need new batteries and are you one of the many people throwing away some 600 million batteries every year?

Land down under

In the UK, we throw away enough batteries that laid end to end in a single line would go all the way from London to Sydney, Australia – and back again!

Most of them end up in landfill, but as they contain dangerous chemicals including lead, zinc, lithium and even mercury, these can find themselves entering the environment, polluting the soil and our water supply. Not only can this present hazards to humans, but it is a direct threat to our natural ecosystem and wildlife.

What’s the alternative?

The thing is, when they are used in so many devices and are probably present in every room in the house, what are the alternatives?

If, like most people, you dispose of your single-use batteries in the household rubbish – STOP. You can bring them in to our recycling stations inside our Welcome stores and we will dispose of them safely.

Plus, this year, we’ve also introduced vape recycling centres to our till points – so you can bring those into us as well.

Vape cartridges are just as hazardous as batteries if they are not disposed of correctly.

With the rise in the use of vapes as an alternative to smoking, it is thought around 5 million disposable vapes are thrown away each week once their few-hundred puffs have expired.

Non-profit organisation Material Focus, calculated that around 30 million vapes are purchased each month in the UK which all contain copper wires and lithium batteries, which when disposed of, contain enough lithium to provide batteries for 5,000 electric cars each year.

We “welcome” your disposeables!

As a retailer that is constantly striving to improve its carbon footprint, vape and battery recycling points are right at home in our stores.

It is really important that we all do our bit to protect the environment and help reduce some of the 5 million disposable vales and 600 million batteries going into landfill.

Here’s a picture of what our recycling stations look like and if you don’t find them in your local Welcome store, please do ask a colleague who will happily point you in the right direction – and let’s get the new year off to a cleaner, greener start!