Local food heroes of lockdown: Wigston Fields News & Deli

Each morning during lockdown, Pratik and Bee Master – owners of Wigston Fields News & Deli – get up at 4am and go to Leicester Market. “If we get there early, we can choose the fruit and veg our customers want,” says Pratik. “Some – especially the older ones – are struggling with the change that coronavirus has brought about. If they get the food and drink they’re used to, it really helps them.”

Hambleton Bakery bread, Vine Farm Dairy milk and local eggs – just a few of the locally produced items on sale at Wigston Fields News & Deli

Pratik and Bee won our Food Hero of the Year Award 2019/20 for transforming their traditional suburban newsagents into a local food and drink hub, stocking products made by around 50 local producers. Their shop not only showcases and supports local producers; it is also the beating heart of the local community. So, it’s no surprise to see Wigston Fields News & Deli (which Bee and Pratik famously christened #notjustacornershop on social media) stepping up to the plate during this pandemic to serve those who rely on it.

Pratik says: “We see ourselves as having two roles in this situation. First, to support our customers and community. Second, to commercially support our suppliers. We’re here to help and we’re working flat out, seven days a week.”

After his daily visit to Leicester Market, by 6am Pratik is unlocking the shop door to get ready for the day ahead. However, at 7.30am, it’s back out onto the road to the wholesaler to stock up with essentials. Then it’s back to the shop again to open up, when a steady stream of socially distanced customers starts to arrive, and the phone begins to constantly ring.

“We’re not only selling food, drink and essentials,” says Pratik, “we’re a place that people enjoy visiting – even if they have to queue up for a while and remain over 2m apart. We’ve always been about community and it’s important for some people’s mental wellbeing that they have a place they trust to visit and rely on.”

Bee & Pratik Master

After heading back to the wholesaler at 2.30pm yet again for more supplies, it’s time to plan the day’s food deliveries for vulnerable customers who are unable to leave their homes.

When all jobs are done, all customers happy, it’s time to head home to get some sleep before that brutal pre-dawn alarm goes off yet again.

“We’re here to stand up for people who can’t do it themselves,” says Pratik. “And we’re here to help our community.”

Through their dedication, energy and community spirit, Pratik and Bee – who also regularly support Leicester South Foodbank – are ensuring that Wigston Fields News & Deli is a food & drink lifeline during coronavirus. Their shop truly is #notjustacornershop.

The author:

Matt lives in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. He is passionate about the independent food & drink sector and founded Great Food Club in 2010 after being inspired by local producers near his home town.