BERMONDSEY IS HOME to a charity addressing one of the biggest problems in the UK: food poverty. According to Oxfam, about twenty per cent of the UK is living in poverty. Many such families are unable to eat regularly. But on a quiet industrial estate in the shadow of Canary Wharf, and at seventeen other depots nationwide, FareShare is working to bring nutritious meals to the poorest people.
The number in the UK struggling to live healthily is baffling when one bears in mind how much food goes to waste: 362,000 tons annually, in retail. FareShare is addressing urgent food poverty by trying to rescue as much of this surplus food as possible: in the last year, suppliers sent them 3,600 tons of fit-for-purpose surplus food. This food, which otherwise would have been rotting in landfill, fed 35,000 people a day — 8.6 million meals in 2011.
‘FareShare is such a practical solution to two major problems,’ says CEO Lindsay Boswell: ‘It uses an environmental solution to tackle a social travesty. Personally I loathe waste and I am totally ashamed that people go hungry in the UK.’
Food poverty is especially pressing because it is growing at a rapid rate. Last year, a survey of the 700 charities that FareShare supports revealed that they were seeing a 40 per cent increase in demand for their services. FareShare’s work is more crucial than ever.
At the Bermondsey warehouse, the deliveries of surplus food that come in daily are sorted into orders by volunteers, some of whom come directly from the charities to which FareShare delivers. Others come to help after work in Canary Wharf, but many are trying to get back into paid employment. As Spear’s browsed around the depot, observing piles of fresh vegetables and huge pallets of canned food, a local teenager was receiving a lesson in forklift truck driving. He is one of the many volunteers that FareShare will help into work by giving them a vocational qualification, with training also offered in warehousing and food safety.
Boswell tells an anecdote that vividly illustrates the problem his charity is addressing: ‘One of our caseworkers visited a family last Christmas Eve and the only item of food in the house was one uncooked egg. Thank goodness he visited. There is so much wrong and so much that can be done.’
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Financial support from Spear’s readers will enable the charity to expand and become increasingly sustainable. Your business skills and expertise could also help refine the charity’s business model, increasing its effectiveness.