FareShare, the national food redistribution charity, has passed a milestone. This month the charity that was once part of the homeless charity Crisis celebrated its 10th anniversary as well as becoming an independent charity in its own right.
However, there is a threat on the horizon that has prompted it to call for more support from the food and drink industry.
The charity, which redistributes quality surplus product from the industry to organisations working with homeless and vulnerable people, has been informed by government that it will not, as it had hoped, be eligible for support under the proposed landfill tax credit scheme, which gives money to schemes that reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, but only ones that invest in new technologies. This means it will lose out on some £400,000 of funding.
Chief executive Tony Lowe says: “There is a powerful moral and environmental case for supporting what we do, and we are looking for a greater commitment from the industry to help us in every way possible.”
A FareShare trustee adds that the government’s decision is a serious blow but not fatal. She says: “If we can’t get the government to reconsider, we will still find the money from somewhere. This will mean a lot more fundraising and hard work, but we’ll get it done.”
One way FareShare hopes to make up some of the shortfall is through its corporate membership scheme, launched earlier this month. The scheme offers companies help disposing of their surplus waste through what it calls tailored solutions to their food and corporate responsibility needs. Through the scheme, FareShare hopes to raise £3m, which will be used to double the scale of its operations by 2006. It plans to open six new FareShare depots throughout the country and expand its existing operations in London and Yorkshire by 2007.
Companies that have already agreed to become corporate members include Spar UK, United Biscuits and Pret a Manger. FareShare is keen to highlight the economic benefits of membership alongside the value of supporting a worthy cause.
Jerry Marwood MD, Spar UK says he would encourage everyone in the industry to support FareShare because it makes good commercial sense and helps it comply with increasingly onerous waste regulations. He says: “Morally it is a great charity to support as it prevents perfectly good food going to waste and brings it to people who need it most. But it also makes sense legally. There is an increasing legal burden on the amount of waste that companies send to landfill in the form of tax, so what better way is there to reduce this burden?”
Martin Bowden, community resources manager at Sainsbury, a keen supporter of FareShare over the last 10 years, says: “The joint issues of reducing waste and food redistribution are industry-wide and not just about individual retailers or suppliers.”
While he believes that the industry has a moral responsibility to reduce waste, the financial benefits of cutting down on landfill tax should not be overlooked, he says. “Saving money is a not a bad idea and when a charity can benefit at the same time by getting the product, it is a win-win situation. It is also important that FareShare is not about flag waving and companies saying ‘look at what we are doing’. This is a competitive industry but we all have a duty to minimise waste.”
While directly asking for food and drink companies to support the corporate membership scheme, FareShare is also calling on the industry to lobby the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, in a bid to rethink the criteria under which it no longer qualifies for funding. Lowe remains confident that FareShare will become one of the most important charities in the country because it deals not just with poverty and hunger but also tackles waste management.
In 2003, working with more than 250 charities throughout the UK, FareShare helped to redistribute more than 1,800 tonnes of food. It says this improved the health and wellbeing of 12,000 vulnerable people by contributing to 2.5 million meals.
But there is still much work to do, says Lowe. “Over one third of all waste that goes to landfill in the UK each year is food waste.
“All we are asking for is help to ensure that as much of this as possible can get to people in need, as well as it having a huge impact on waste reduction.”