The door to a warehouse in Bermondsey opens and spread throughout the vast space are crates packed with a huge array of food and drink that people are busy loading into vans. Welcome to FareShare, where one man's left-overs are another man's lifeline.

FareShare is the only national food charity that redistributes fit-for-purpose food donated by retailers to those in need all over the country. It started off as the project of Crisis, the charity for the homeless, but was so successful that two years ago it became a charity in its own right.

Although it is only August, FareShare is currently in the throes of kickstarting its Christmas Meal Appeal. Between 11 and 23 December, FareShare's seven depots will deliver the ingredients for a Christmas dinner to soup kitchens and drop-in centres.

Alex Green, director of marketing, says: "We had 12,000 people to feed last Christmas but every day we feed that number. A lot of hostels close over Christmas so people end up with nowhere to go."

FareShare plans to feed at least one hot festive dinner to 20,000 people this Christmas. "Last Christmas was successful but it was a smaller pilot," says Green. "We started our food acquisition too late. Christmas starts in May in the food industry so this year we wanted to get to businesses earlier. We've learnt to get in sync with businesses in terms of Christmas planning.

"While throughout the year FareShare only takes surplus food from the food industry, for the Meal Appeal we need to guarantee that we have the right food in the right place at the right time."

This year FareShare isn't only looking for surplus food and is asking retailers to pledge contributions up front so that it can provide all the usual elements of a Christmas dinner.

The Meal Appeal caps a year of major growth for FareShare, with new routes springing up all over the country. It has revised its target of helping 300 organisations to 500 by the end of the year.

"We've come to the end of the first three-year strategy, which was to double the size of FareShare and recruit 100 new organisations to give food," Green says.

"After months of piloting, on 25 July we celebrated the launch of our new social enterprise, FareShare 1st, which is set up to provide a tailored socially and environmentally sound solution for surplus food."

The scheme offers a cheaper, more eco-friendly alternative to landfill sites by taking the surplus food from manufacturers and distributing what is edible through FareShare's network. FareShare will then dispose of the rest by green methods.

FareShare's biggest challenge is money, says Green. "Like any ­charity we're always running to find the next buck. Businesses quite often give us food and consider it a donation but it costs money to take it from A to B."

The charity is looking to raise £200,000 to help keep its vans running and able to deliver the food.

"The Christmas Meal Appeal this year will also be highlighting the fact that food poverty isn't just an issue at Christmas. FareShare's mission is to support communities to relieve food poverty 12 months of the year," Green says.

"The £200,000 is so that we can guarantee to deliver the food at Christmas time and provide our essential delivery service throughout the coming year."n

If you would like to help FareShare please call Jonathan Pelluet on

0207 394 2469.