Following Southall’s Bhangra Disco Soup we invited Southall Transition to join us on our visit to FareShare, We wanted to find out how they connect the surplus food from supermarkets to charities and to learn how our network can support FareShare in squeezing as much social goodness as possible out of surplus food.
FareShare has been working across the UK for the past 20 years. Originally set up to source food for the Crisis at Christmas shelters, it evolved to become a separate charity as people realised there was an abundance of surplus food and hundreds of community groups who needed it.
Lindsay, FareShare’s CEO, and Rachel who is in charge of FareShare’s London operations gave us a tour of their distribution warehouse. There were whole pallets of tins of beans, packets of cereal, boxes of fruit and cases of fresh bread. All of which would have been binned if it wasn’t for FareShare.
Rachel said “We provide food for a range of charities from homeless hostels, breakfast clubs, elderly lunch clubs, to domestic violence shelters. We’ll work with any charity which uses food as a hook to bring people into provide other services”.
The food they receive is really good quality, just like we would buy in the shops. It included big brand names and popular products. Starbucks coffee, Yeo Valley organic yogurts, Dolmio pasta sauce. It really was just like being at the supermarket.
One of the crates included apples which a supermarket had deemed ‘too small’. Rachel said “Supermarkets have cosmetic standards, sometimes fruit and veg are considered too red, too green, too small, too bobbly and they become surplus.”
She explained how it’s not that easy for small charities to gain access to surplus food at a local level due to corporate procedures which can be time consuming. But FareShare has worked with supermarkets nationally to create a distribution network to charities.
Lindsay revealed some astonishing figures, highlighting how FareShare saved 8,000 tonnes of surplus food and distributed it to 2,135 charities this year. “The best waste disposal method is always putting it between a bottom and top lip” he said. The charity had saved of 16 million meals from landfill, helping charities save £16 million. He told us that this is still only 2% of the surplus food in the UK. Just 2%! It highlights how much there is still be done. FareShare is definitely on the case, with a vision to distribute 100,000 tonnes!
FareShare has been been working closely with Tesco and the supermarket is now sending all their surplus food directly to the FareShare depots. The depots recruit local volunteers, many of whom are unemployed, and help train them in new skills. “We like to squeeze as much social goodness out of our work as we can,” Lindsay told us.
We’re now on mission to support FareShare. Building a network to use surplus food is one way that community groups and we as individuals can work together to reduce waste and strengthen the charities where we live.
We want to help FareShare bring surplus food to charities in West London. Maybe you know a good place which could be a hub for distribution of surplus food to local charities? We would love to hear from you.
Right across the UK you can help FareShare by volunteering for the charity. It has 21 depots across the UK. The London depot in Deptford needs 225 volunteer shifts of 4 hours a week. If you can commit to at least 3 months, one morning or afternoon a week, they’d love to hear from you. If you are involved with a charity or community group and could make good use of FareShare’s food donations, find out more about becoming a Fareshare Community Food Member.
Meanwhile, if you’re visiting a local Tesco store between the 3rd-5th of December, it would be great if you could donate some food to the Neighbourhood Food Collection. The donated dried and tinned goods make sure that FareShare can provide everything needed to make nutritious meals, topping up the food surplus available if there are gaps.
See www.fareshare.org.uk for more info.