Food market pioneer taking on the cost of living crisis Dorothy Bowker at her low-cost community supermarket

Dorothy Bowker at her low-cost community supermarket

Dorothy Bowker at her low-cost community supermarket, the Bridge at Leigh. Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

At 75, Dorothy Bowker felt compelled to set up a low-cost supermarket for her community. Now it is her turn to be treated

Sirin Kale

‘I’m one of those people who says yes to things,”

says Dorothy Bowker, sounding bewildered. I’ve just asked her why she decided to launch a community supermarket at an age when most people are enjoying a quiet and retirement, or spending time with their families. (Bowker, 75, is a mother of three, grandmother of nine, and great-grandmother of three.)

The Bridge At LeighSince 2015, Bowker has been a trustee of the Bridge at Leigh, which was originally a community cafe in this town small near Wigan. It was her husband, Frank, who first got involved; he brought her in, and Bowker helped transform the space into a low-cost food market. The group collects surplus stock from supermarkets that would otherwise go to waste and sells it at low prices to members of the community.

“People pay a £2 yearly membership fee,”

Bowker says,

“and can shop at really low prices. If they spend £5, they’re probably getting a bag of shopping worth £20 or even £25.”

The supermarket welcomes all, but particularly people on low incomes, families that are just about managing, and those who may have to choose between heating and eating.

“Anyone can join,”

says Bowker.

“We don’t ask how much they earn. Sometimes we attract people who are more worried about food waste than cost, and they may pay extra. Other families are on benefits, and come regularly. You get to know everyone.”

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