AN ONLINE shop has opened at a Keighley community centre to build on its work distributing food to vulnerable people during the pandemic.

Volunteers at the Hainworth Wood Community Centre have set up the Online Store as a direct response to the Covid-19 lockdown.

While operating vital support services for surrounding neighbourhoods like Woodhouse and Spring Bank, they discovered many local residents found it hard to get essential items and donated goods.

Shaun O'Hare, from regeneration group Keighley Big Local, said the building, in the centre of the Woodhouse and Spring Bank neighbourhood, had been closed to the public during the lockdown.

But he said: "Despite this, Hainworth Wood Community Centre cemented itself as the heart of a huge amount of organised voluntary effort.

The centre hosts the Hainworth Wood Food Bank, which has seen demand rockets during lockdown, and Doorstep Support whose volunteers deliver various services in the community.

Ma Kellys Kitchen has seen volunteers cooking and delivering 300 meals a week to older residents, and the centre has also become a base for the distribution of food and essential items either subsidised or donated by local groups and businesses.

Mr O'Hare said: "All this was difficult to manage, and we found we were communicating with residents using far too many platforms to be effective. It was also proving difficult ensuring items got to the right people, those who were in genuine need.

"The idea was to create an online solution to help manage items and create a wider membership of the community centre."

Big Local gave a grant to social enterprise Worth Cooperating to develop an online solution to food poverty, testing a prototype 'shop' at the centre with the intention of expanding whatever proved successful.

Mr O'Hare said offers of discounted paints form Bradford Repaint, gardening and litter-picker kits and activity packs went down well with residents, who ordered online and collected from the building.

He added said: "The clarity of the offer and booking system with designated pick-up times is helping to manage fulfilment and social distancing.

"Most importantly the community centre has a growing band of happy residents who will continue to use the service and maybe get involved with existing volunteers in running it.

"Maybe a 'Click and Collect' for items and services is part of the centre's future role.

"In recent years Hainworth Wood Community Centre has, like many other community buildings, seen residents make less use of the building and the activities it offers. 

"As communities change the best community buildings change with them, keeping the building at heart of the community."

The Online Store stresses it is not in competition with local shops but will instead offer discounted and free items as they become available.

Worth Cooperating, Big Local and the centre are now talking with Keighley Food Partnership about providing low-cost food parcels.

Bob Thorp, of Worth Cooperating, said: "It is great to find people on the same page in terms of increasing the amount of local food growing and processing in the town.

"Food Resilience and security are we feel going to increasingly important topics as we are impacted by climate change and seek solutions. Creating community owned and run food assets is we feel part of the solution to climate change and equity."

Worth Cooperating is a worker cooperative based in Keighley that sells organic, fair trade, eco-friendly and plastic free products online and at events.