14:00 30 December 2021
A community support group that started distributing food parcels from its founder’s garage is heading for a record year after distributing 280,000 meals and preventing thousands of tonnes of surplus supermarket food from going to landfill.
Huntingdon-based Diamond Hampers recycled £350,000 of food over the year, including £6,000 of Christmas turkeys.
Diamond Hampers opened The Pantry in downtown Huntingdon, which sells affordable food, less than a year ago and has just opened The Attic, which sells household items at an affordable price.
Lianne Simpson, founder and chief executive of the charitable social enterprise, was amazed at how the business has taken off.
Now she would like to see Diamond Hampers expand to other communities.
“I would love to see pantries and attics open up all over the country,” Lianne said.
“It started two years ago this month when I decided to start a community group. I promised my husband it would be a small group and he rolled his eyes at me.
“He ran from the converted garage of our house and I brought others in for help and support.”
Diamond Hampers is run by a team of 30-40 volunteers, with just three paid staff.
Lianne, who is unpaid, said the year had been a record year, having seen the number of meals distributed rise from 108,000 last year to 280,000.
He has helped 800 needy families over the past six months and before Christmas he processed 25 tonnes of surplus food in just 24 hours, the amount he normally handles in a month.
Lianne said The Pantry, which is open to everyone, has helped reduce the stigma of using a food bank and has also prevented a huge amount of excess food from being dumped.
She said they also worked closely with other organizations to help create a long-term future for their clients.
“Going to a food bank can cause stigma and we want to create a better, sustainable future for the people who use it,” Lianne said.
She said a £3 basket of food in the daily open store could have a normal retail value of up to £40. Products include items that are past their expiry date, have damaged packaging, or have reached the end of a season, such as Christmas items.
Lianne, 36, a mother of five with a debilitating form of arthritis, was a guest at a Christmas carol concert at Westminster Abbey hosted by the Duchess of Cambridge and attended by members of the royal family, including Prince William.
Diamond Hampers has also been shortlisted for three awards under a business rewards program.