Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Visiting FareShare Merseyside: Food Bank Distributor

My two ward councillor colleagues and I visited the FareShare Merseyside distribution centre recently to help us understand how food banks work and where they get their food from. We are interested in using some of our devolved budget to support the establishment of food banks in the Kensington and Fairfield area because we have heard that currently our residents who are in need are having to travel or walk several miles to the two nearest ones. 
We have been in touch with some local churches who indicated they might want to help with this so we thought a visit to the FareShare project would be useful. 
We took two of the Council’s Neighbourhood Ward Support Officers with us too so that they could spread the word while engaging elsewhere in the city. 
We learnt that FareShare is a national organisation with depots around the country. Each depot receives a share of food from the national depot, which has been sent to them from supermarkets and manufacturers where for some reason they are not able to put it on their own shelves. So for instance a tray of beans may have been labelled as having 450g of beans but the conveyor belt in the factory might have blipped and only filled them with 430g. Or the line might have been discontinued, or there may have been a production over run so that 2000 jars of sauce were made when an order only required 1500. The surplus food and foodstuff is then given away to FareShare rather than thrown away, put into landfill or incinerated.
They have no say what they will receive, when we were there there had for example been a recent delivery of masses of apple juice, but this might be a one-off, they may never receive apple juice again.
The foodstuffs are then appropriately stored in the depot and hard working volunteers sort it out according to its use by date. We marvelled at some of the food that had found its way to FareShare, there were tins of soup and beans, pasta and sauces, coffee and cereal but also obscure things like half a dozen tins of Pannetone cake and a crate of windscreen de-icer. We even spied a couple of bird boxes!
FareShare then parcel up an agreed amount of food for each of the food banks and subsidised luncheon clubs that they serve, and other volunteers drive vans every day to deliver the food to them ready to distribute to those in need. 
Some food banks collect extra food from shoppers in local supermarkets to supplement the food they have delivered from FareShare.
It costs something in the order of £700 per year for a food bank to buy into the service and to have the food delivered to them as required. 
We were extremely impressed with the dedication of the staff and volunteers and will be delighted to fund two or three of these memberships to help local people in need to eat. 
You can keep up with the good work of FareShare by following them on Twitter @faresharemersey 

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