How Preston charity FareShare is helping hard-up families by making the most of surplus fruit, vegetables and groceries.
A Preston-based charity which saves fresh food from being binned has provided almost one million meals to people in need.
FareShare has salvaged 390 tonnes of fresh, surplus food that was heading for landfill, and diverted it to school breakfast clubs, domestic violence refuges, foodbanks and older people’s lunch clubs.
It comes as the roll out of Universal Credit has meant more people are struggling to afford to eat, resorting to food banks.
“The amount of food that we are redistributing, that’s the tip of the iceberg,” said Katie Upton, marketing manager at Recycling Lives, the base from which FareShare runs its distribution network in Lancashire and Cumbria.
“FareShare is about dealing with the fact that there’s that much food going to waste and that there’s that many people in need of food in the UK in 2019.”
In Preston, the FareShare scheme fed an estimated 3,557 people in need each week in the last financial year - saving 62.4 tonnes of surplus food from waste.
The Trussell Trust, which runs foodbanks up and down the country, has seen a 13 per cent rise in food parcels being handed out in Lancashire.
Katie said: “FareShare bridges the gap between supermarkets, food suppliers, farmers with surplus food and members of the community who are in need of food.
“On bank holiday weekend, for example, everyone expected it to be really sunny so supermarkets ordered a lot of extra burgers for BBQs and a lot of extra surplus food but they were not able to put it out onto the shelves so that food comes to us.
“In another way, farmers might anticipate having a certain size of crop but one year it might be a bumper crop which they can’t use - that extra food comes to us too.
“Then there is seasonal food like Easter eggs that we get as well.
“It’s cheaper for these organisations to let that surplus just go to waste where it’s incinerated but instead food should be used to feed people.
“So it comes to us and we distribute it to a network of charities and homeless groups.
“And on top of feeding people - it’s also money. These groups are saving rather than spending.
“As long as that need is there we will do the work that we do.”
FareShare Lancashire and Cumbria general manager, Jeff Green, added: “Times are tough for charities, with funding increasingly hard to come by.
“The food we redistribute is great quality and tastes just like the food you would eat at home.
“It’s amazing that we can take something that could be thrown away and turn it into something that creates enormous social benefit.”
The Preston based warehouse, run by partner charity Recycling Lives, currently serves a network of 163 organisations across the region.
Recycling Lives delivers the food to these groups, alongside its work rehabilitating offenders and supporting the homeless, all supported by its business operations in recycling and waste management.
Stats for Central Lancashire
l Provided food to 38 charities and community groups
l Helped to feed an estimated 3,557 people in need each week
l Saved 62.4 tons of surplus food from waste by diverting to charities in this area which created 148,574 nutritious meals
l And saved charities a total of £105,052 – which is reinvested to provide other services such as debt counselling, holiday schemes for children, or housing advice
l Provided food to three charities and community groups
l Helped to feed an estimated 321 people in need each week
l Saved 11.7 tons of surplus food from waste by diverting to charities in this area which created 27,857 nutritious meals
l And saved charities a total of £21,252
l Provided food to two charities and community groups
l Helped to feed an estimated 214 people in need each week
l Saved 2.4 tons of surplus food from waste by diverting to charities in this area which created 5,714 nutritious meals
l And saved charities a total of £4,069
About Fare Share Lancashire and Cumbria
FareShare was born out of the belief that no good food should go to waste, especially when people are going hungry.
It saves more than 390 tonnes of good surplus food from right across the food supply chain nationally and redistributes it to 163 charities and community groups throughout Lancashire and Cumbria.
The charity takes surplus food from the food industry that can’t be sold in shops, either because of packaging errors or a short shelf life, but is still good to eat and redistributes it to frontline charities and community groups.
Food items and categories redistributed include fresh meat and fish, fruit and vegetables, ready meals, milk and cheeses.
In the last year alone school breakfast clubs, domestic violence refuges, older people’s lunch clubs, food banks and hospices used FareShare food to provide 910,138 meals for vulnerable people who might otherwise go hungry. Nationally, this saw the charity sector save over £1,287,700, which helped to feed 17,441 people every week.
A national survey found that, on average, each charity saves £7,900 from its yearly food bill by using food from FareShare, with one in five charities saying that without that food they’d have to close.
The food also helps the charities provide healthier, more nutritious meals, with 77 per cent saying it’s improved their client’s diets.
Salvation Army Foodbank in Preston
At the foodbank in Preston the Salvation Army is having to turn hungry people away because they are running out of food to hand out.
Bosses at the centre in Harrington Street, which only gives out non-perishable food and cannot take the fresh food that FareShare distributes, say they think well-wishers are struggling with donation fatigue.
They say they only ever have five days of food to give out at a time when the demand is at an all time high as Universal Credit is brought into place.
Staff member Natalie Thomas said: “We are really struggling. I think people are exhausted from giving but I also think that there are a lot of little foodbanks which have set up and people are donating more locally now.
“We have seen a drop in donations but not a drop in referrals. Since July last year the referrals have not eased at all.
“It’s since Universal Credit came in. We give out five to seven days worth of food because people are only getting paid once a month now.
“We are turning people away.
“If people have had three referrals when they come back a fourth time we have to turn them away. We only have five days worth of food at the centre.
“We are going out every week spending £300 trying to top up the food.
“We are trying everything we can. We have set up a JustGiving page and an Amazon wishlist. We can also accept online deliveries. Churches Together does donate regularly.
“Nothing we are doing at the moment though is bringing food in.
“Since July when Universal Credit started getting rolled out in Preston our referrals have increased by 25 per cent.
“That’s dropped by around 10 per cent in the last couple of months but only because we are having to turn people away and we are asking that referrals go to other foodbanks. Even with that we are struggling to maintain the foodbank.
“We are literally in need of everything. We haven’t even got any pasta and we’re low on beans and soup.
“It’s never been this bad. Our appeals don’t seem to have an effect.
“People are exhausted but the need is real.”
What is Universal Credit?
Introduced as part of the Conservatives’ welfare reform, Universal Credit replaces six benefits - child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), employment and support allowance (ESA), and working tax credit - with one monthly payment.
Historically, benefits were paid fortnightly.
Only new claimants and those with a change in circumstances are currently put on Universal Credit, though the Government plans to start shifting all those on old style benefits onto the new system from July, starting in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
A change in circumstances can be as little as moving home or a child turning 18. Universal Credit was rolled out in Preston last July, with almost 5,000 people already on it. Some 1,521 have jobs.
Those moved onto Universal Credit have to wait at least five weeks for their first payment, which charity The Trussell Trust said is “leaving many without enough money to cover the basics”.
“There are other problems with Universal Credit, but the five-week wait is one of the key reasons why we’ve seen a rise in people needing food banks where it has been rolled out,” it said.
Struggling families can apply for an ‘advance’ sum - a loan of up to 100 per cent of their estimated monthly payment to help bridge the gap - but they have to be repaid over 12 months - or 16 from October 2021.
The Trussell Trust, which runs foodbanks up and down the country, said people are left “between a rock and a hard place: no money now, or not enough money later?”
A 13 per cent rise in food parcels being handed out in Lancashire has also been recorded by the charity, which is campaigning for the five week wait to be reduced, in the past year.