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re fill food containers
re fill food containers

Weighing in on a new community service

Strathpeffer Community Development Trust sets out to create a community enterprise funded by the EDF Renewables Corriemoillie Wind Farm Community Fund (Strathpeffer).

Strathpeffer Community Development Trust (SCDT) runs a number of local events and intiatives including operating the Community Centre, and recently establishing a community shop. They were awarded £3,000 in funding from the EDF Renewables Corriemoillie Wind Farm Community Fund (Strathpeffer), which is a sub-fund of the EDF Renewables Corriemoillie Wind Farm Community Fund.

Strathpeffer Station Trading officially launched in September 2023, in a unit which is leased from Old Strathpeffer Railway Trust.

SCDT first researched the viability of taking on the former fair trade shop as a community enterprise, to sell products and provide services (such as refill stations and sale of second hand goods) that are not otherwise available locally and that support sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyles. They received a lot of positive community feedback and developed a business case so the project was approved at the SCDT AGM.

SCDT has set up a separate steering group for the shop which is staffed by a mix of part time staff and volunteers. The shop sells a range of locally and ethically produced crafts as well as selling refill products such as washing liquid and detergent.

In order to offer a wider range of refill goods (particularly dried goods sold by weight in a customers own container), SCDT applied for funding to purchase some specialist equipment to display, store, dispense, weigh, and ticket goods for sale. The refill aspect is seen as a key service particularly to local people who will provide the majority of shop footfall out with the tourist season.

SCDT was awarded £3,000 in November 2023 to purchase the necessary equipment to set up the refill station. Further research led to a modification of their plans, however, in terms of the most useful equipment to meet their needs. Volunteers arranged a visit to a similar project in the area – Ullapool Unpacked – which they found to be very useful. The Ullapool experience suggested that a better system would be having staff weigh and measure the goods, rather than letting customers do this themselves. They still needed to purchase calibrated scales, but could opt for a much simpler and therefore cheaper version.

Further advice from environmental health also impacted plans and was all part of the steep learning curve for the volunteers involved. As the refill station involves open food (as opposed to sealed and packaged food - which is the point of it!) there were further requirements to be met in order to be fully compliant. Shop staff and volunteers require food handling training, the racking needs to be wipable and there is a need to install a hand sink and water heater in the shop/storage area.

This all led to a rebalancing of the budget but the team are confident they will now have the right set-up in place to make this part of the initiative a real success.

SCDT and shop volunteer, Miranda Wharam, said: 

“The shop is doing really well - household refills are already very popular – and we are still confident that the dry foods will be successful as refill option. We have lots of ideas to add further value, such as working with local food producers. We will be collaborating with a local artisan breadmaker for example. They have been invited to do a tasting session in Real Bread Week, where bread flour will be on sale. We are planning a Christmas Fair and working with the local primary school on waste issues. So many possibilities from this exciting new project!”