I have been writing about FareShare for over a year now so when I arrive at my local depot in Brighton at 9 o’clock one chilly autumn morning, I think I have a good idea of what to expect.
However, it is not long before I am jolted out of my comfort zone and really have my eyes opened to the incredible work the charity does every day.
FareShare currently has seven operations around the UK. It supports 250 charities and provides meals for over 12,000 homeless and vulnerable people each year. Last year it distributed enough food for 2.5 million meals.
The Brighton and Hove operation, which supports 37 projects in the city, is staffed by project manager Nat Kidd and his assistant manager Nathan Au, with the help of local volunteers and members of the Rotary Club who regularly offer their services as delivery drivers.
Almost as soon as I arrive, I am dispatched with two other volunteers to local bakery Forfars to pick up the daily consignment of bread and
These we bring back to the depot and divide up with the food orders for the 12 charitable projects to whom we are due to make the delivery.
To begin with I feel like a little bit of a spare part as the team springs into action making up orders of chilled ready meals such as Salmon en Croute and Beef Wellington from M&S, sandwiches from Pret a Manger, ambient and fresh food, and then getting the van loaded up.
Soon, however, assistant manager Nathan Au is barking out instructions for me to pick up a tray of ready meals from the walk-in fridge and I am on my way.
I have lived in Brighton for almost a year and thought I knew the place pretty well by now and had a fair idea of what was happening. However, after just our third delivery I realise that I know very little about the city I live in.
For a start, I cannot believe the number of people who are in need of help.
The projects cater for all manner of people. FareShare is chiefly concerned with the homeless and vulnerable people in society and there are centres for the young, the old, as well as those suffering from drink and drug problems.
Each of the projects I visit is of a reasonably large scale and the majority would take more food if FareShare could provide it.
The highlight of my day is bringing a delivery to a centre for young people who are homeless.
The centre is targeted at kids with an interest in music and gives them the chance to work with instruments and recording equipment in a safe environment free from alcohol and drugs.
The centre is clean and warm, and these young people seem to be genuinely happy to be there. One young girl almost jumps with delight when she sees the tray of fruit smoothies I am carrying.
It is also abundantly clear that the
rest of the quality food we are delivering will make a real difference in people’s lives rather than ending up in some landfill site.
In each of the charities we visit, we are warmly welcomed by the volunteers there and it is apparent that FareShare’s efforts are greatly appreciated.
Throughout the day, I gain further insights into how different these people’s lives are from yours or mine.
At one homeless centre, a young woman comes in on a bitterly cold day to borrow 20p. For most people this would seem like a paltry sum. However, for her it is far from insignificant and something she has to sign for.
Back at the depot, Kidd says that FareShare is always looking for more volunteers as well as trying to get more food companies to donate their surplus food.
Locally, its main supporters are M&S, Sainsbury, Waitrose, Pret a Manger, Forfars and the most recent recruit, Nestlé.
“The project here is really beginning to take off and it is a very exciting time, but there is plenty more that needs to be done.
“We are currently focusing on convincing the other major multiple retailers in the area that we can help them with their surplus food issues and that they in turn can help us,” Kidd explains.
Throughout the country, FareShare is looking for support for its Christmas Meal Appeal. It is hoping to provide 16,000 meals on Christmas Day for people who wouldn’t normally be able to enjoy this food.
To achieve this target, it is looking for food, logistical or financial support.
If you are interested in supporting FareShare, call 020 7394 2467 or e-mail email@example.com