Local contractor and regeneration specialists RE:GEN Group have completed a free of charge refurbishment on the Byker Pantry as part of their ongoing commitment to local residents.

For many years, the Byker Pantry has supported hundreds of families in the North East by offering heavily discounted food and household items as part of a points system, seeking to reduce the cost of supermarket goods by almost half and to lessen the stigma of asking for much-needed help.

By providing a foodbank alternative, to which no referrals are required, the Pantry has also been able to create a safe space for their members to come together and share love, support and friendship when they need it most.

The upgrade to the Pantry was facilitated by Byker Community Trust (BCT), part of Karbon Homes, who appointed RE:GEN Group to deliver £1.8m worth of modernisation works to homes on the iconic Grade II* listed Byker estate.

Together BCT and RE:GEN Group felt it was essential to do their bit to strengthen the community efforts of the Pantry as we enter a cost of living crisis. As such, BCT and RE:GEN decided that the best way to do this was to refit the venue to increase its capabilities and extend the support it provides within the local community.

The refit works to the Pantry included the opening up of the space by removing the passage walls and knocking two of the existing rooms into one. A new reconfiguration and installation of the kitchen, creating additional storage through 2x new cupboard areas, along with alterations to the doorways to provide wider access in the passage way. Installation of a new main door and front window were also carried out on the property, as well as upgrading the lighting throughout to LED fixtures.

RE:GEN Group, with the help of local partners Hewitt’s Plumbing and Heating, Tiffen Gas and BA Electricals carried out the works. The new kitchen units were supplied by JTC Kitchens and the new window and door were provided by Sekura Windows.

In addition to the supermarket goods, the improved space will now support the provision of laptops which can be used in pantry sessions by both staff, volunteers and members alike. This will facilitate staff and volunteers of the Pantry in being able to further support their members in gaining education, advice and support. For example, helping members to gain new skills and successfully apply for jobs through constant access to IT. The Pantry also intends to host a range of new initiatives and workshops in collaboration with the local council and BCT.

As a direct result of the refurbishment, the Pantry expects to see a 50% rise in memberships over the next 12 months due to the Pantry’s enhancements. On average the Byker Pantry welcomes around 100 people through their doors each week. However, David Bass, Senior Pastor at Life Vinyard Church believes the new space will appeal to a wider range of local residents. By combining the major refit with their new approach of accepting healthy start vouchers, where members have the potential to double the value of their vouchers by shopping at the Pantry, now is the perfect time to increase the support they can provide and grow their membership base.

Paul Flannigan, Social Value Director at RE:GEN Group comments:

“Community is at the heart of RE:GEN Group. At a time when the North East has been identified as having the second highest poverty rate in the UK, doing everything that we can for the local community is vital.

“Seeing the positive impact that the Byker Pantry has on its local residents made it all the more imperative for us to use our skills and expertise to boost the opportunities and services the Pantry provides. As part of our ongoing commitment to Byker, we will have delivered modernisation works to over 500 properties on the estate by the end of March, so being able to enhance the wider facilities available to these residents gives what we do even more significance.

“The Pantry will be facilitating the use of laptops during their sessions to help residents get work-ready. This comes at a brilliant time with our new jobs fair set to launch in the coming months which we will be encouraging all residents to get involved with.”

Michelle Bell – Assistant Director, Byker Community (Byker Community Trust, part of Karbon Homes), said:

“The Byker Pantry is at the heart of our community and is a vital service for many local families living on the Estate. With the cost of living and prices for everyday items such as food and household items increasing, it is essential that places such as the Byker Pantry exist.

“The newly refurbished and more spacious building will enable staff and volunteers to continue to provide this service to our customers, increasing their membership and providing additional services locally in the pantry.

“As part of our Thriving Byker Strategy, I’m delighted to see RE:GEN Group committed to delivering the improvements as part of their social value and going above and beyond the core contract of delivering modernisation works on the Estate for the benefit of our customers.”

David Bass, Senior Pastor at Life Vinyard Church adds:

“A huge thank you for the amazing work the RE:GEN team have completed at the Pantry. It looks amazing. We expect over the next 5 years to see the impact of the refurbishment grow year on year.”