FareShare UK has redistributed over 1,100 tonnes of frozen food in 2020

FareShare is expanding its frozen food operations after seeing an opportunity for getting more surplus food to those in need during Covid and the lorry driver crisis.

The food redistribution network said, throughout the pandemic and the supply chain crisis, frozen food proved to be a reliable option as charities could plan ahead and have access to a more consistent number of meals whenever fresh food input was lower.

“Surplus diminished when the public were panic-buying at the beginning of the pandemic, and through the haulage crisis and Brexit and all the pressures that are on the supply chain now,” said head of development at FareShare Yorkshire, Jonathan Williams.

“The surplus we are handing over now is changing all the time and variety can be limited sometimes, so actually giving charities frozen helps them put frozen stock away for a rainy day.”

Its Yorkshire centre alone – which currently receives frozen surplus food from over 50 suppliers, including Pukka Pies and Quorn, and is at the forefront of frozen food redistribution – has gone from supplying its local partners one tonne of frozen food a month to nearly one tonne of frozen food a day.

“We started the pandemic with four pallet spaces for frozen food. By April we will have 43, so just from one regional perspective, that’s the kind of jump we’re trying to make,” Williams said.

FareShare’s head of frozen, Fiona Robertson, said the group is now aiming to have about 300 frozen pallet spaces in its UK-wide network by the spring.

“We realised there was quite a lot of potential for growth in this area based on the fact that we knew there was frozen surplus in the industry – and we were offered that food – but also the demand on the other end that we saw with our charities,” she added.

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FareShare UK has redistributed over 1,100 tonnes of frozen food in 2020 (the equivalent of more than 2.7 million meals) – a number that has more than tripled since 2019.

The biggest challenges it faced when it came to redistributing frozen food were related to transportation – typically chilled van drivers have a two-hour time limit to make sure the food arrives at its destination in good condition – and storage, both at its own warehouses and at the charities that received the frozen food.

The organisation has tackled those obstacles by adding more freezer vans to its fleet (FareShare Yorkshire currently has one freezer van and will be deploying a second one in May), upping freezer storage at its own sites and funding new chests of freezers for charities that needed them.

“What we found was a lot of our charities were already geared up to take frozen or if not, they were willing to make an investment in a freezer in order to receive it,” Robertson said.

In order to reach out to a wider group of suppliers, FareShare has joined forces with the BFFF to spread the word amongst its members.

“The BFFF have given us two opportunities to put a shout out to the industry, to give them an up-to-date picture of where we’re at and what impact their surplus will have if they provide it for redistribution,” Williams said. “They’ve also offered technical advice wherever necessary, so we’re really grateful for the opportunity.”