Since March 2017 we’ve been supporting Fareshare, a fantastic charity tackling food waste and food poverty. Did you know that 270,000 tonnes are wasted by the UK food industry every year? And that 8.4m people can’t afford food? No we didn’t either. Food waste is a pretty serious issue in the UK but with organisations like Fareshare we can all help. For an insight into exactly who Fareshare are, why we chose to support them and how you can get involved, read this interview with Commercial Director, Alsyon Walsh. We chat all things from inspiration, challenges, achievements and even favourite cocktails!
1. What do Fareshare do?
FareShare saves good food destined for waste and sends it to charities and community groups who transform it into nutritious meals for vulnerable people. The food we redistribute is fresh, quality and in date surplus from the food industry and the charities we work with can be found across the UK.
By making sure good food is not wasted, we turn an environmental problem into a social solution.
2. Where did the inspiration for Fareshare come from?
FareShare was established in 1994 as part of Crisis, the UK homelessness charity. Through a partnership with Sainsbury’s, it was highlighted that a huge amount of food in the food industry was going to waste, when millions of people in the UK were struggling with food poverty. It all started as a homelessness project in London, with Sainsbury’s giving some of their surplus produce to Crisis, who would turn it into meals for their homeless beneficiaries.
Today, we have 21 Regional Centres across the UK, from which we redistribute surplus food from 450 different food retailers to over 6,700 charities and community groups, including homeless shelters, women’s refuges, children’s breakfast clubs, elderly people’s lunch clubs and drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres.
3. How do you see the partnership between Funkin and Fareshare working?
We are thrilled that Funkin cocktails have selected us as Charity of the Year in 2017. Alongside a donation from the company, Funkin staff are fundraising through activities such as bake sales, dress down days, and challenge events such as the Survival of the Fittest 10k.
The money raised through the partnership will help us continue our operation in London and the rest of the UK. We are also pleased that Funkin’s products are contributing to the fight against food waste and want to help make people aware of their commitment to our cause.
4. What has been the organisations biggest achievement so far?
We continue to grow year on year, increasing tonnage of food, number of beneficiaries and number of meals provided, and we are so proud of what we are achieving as an organisation. Last year we redistributed 13,552 tonnes of surplus food to 6,723 charities, feeding 484,376 people a week.
We have recently won two prestigious awards; the Experian Award for Building Stronger Communities (in partnership with Tesco) at the Business in the Community Awards, and the Award for Environment and Conservation at the 2017 Charity Awards, which is fantastic.
We are also now in the second year of our store-level redistribution project with Tesco, which has been an unprecedented success. We have 5,000 charities signed up to collect surplus food directly from Tesco stores
5. What has been the organisation’s biggest challenge?
Getting food. We have the fantastic support of our existing food partners, but many companies don’t even realise that what they might have, such as cancelled orders or overs, could actually be used by our charities to feed vulnerable people. Once stock ceases to have a commercial value in their eyes, they consider it to be ‘waste’, whereas in fact, this is simply surplus food which, whilst it is in-date, is still good to eat and can be redistributde to half a million people every week.
6. Since the launch of Fareshare, have you seen any improvements in the reduction of food waste?
Absolutely. While there have only recently been official statistics released about levels of food waste in the UK, so there is not much to compare it to, we have already heard by the launch of FareShare FoodCloud, Tesco have reported and 86% reduction in their store level waste, which is incredible in one year.
However, there is still a lot of work to do. We are only redistributing 5% of the 270,000 tonnes of surplus food that is produced by the food industry every year, and have ambitious plans to grow.
7. In terms of fruit waste, which type of fruit do you tend to see the most of?
We see every type of fruit come in, from watermelons to Sharon fruit, but according to our food team, oranges are the most frequent. But for our School Clubs and Breakfast Club audiences, they’re great for little hands!
8. What is your favourite fruit?
9. What type of food tends to be wasted the most?
We get a vast range of surplus food coming into our warehouses, from filet steak and chicken breast, fresh pineapples and ready meals, but bakery products are possibly the most constant, as a lot of it is short dated. We also get ‘gluts’ of certain food, for example we had several pallets of short dated soured cream a few weeks ago – there’s only so much soured cream people want!
10. Describe a typical working day at Fareshare
The day starts with loading up the 4 refrigerated vans with the charity orders, which have been put together the day before. While our drivers and assistants take to the road, delivering to 10 charities each, our army of warehouse volunteers stay behind and sort through food that has been delivered in from our partners.
After lunch, the team start to phone round charities that will be receiving their deliveries the following day, going through what we have on offer and allocating food to them. Once this is complete, around mid- afternoon, we start picking the orders and assembling them so they’re ready for the following morning.
11. How has the organisation evolved over time?
We started as a homelessness project in London, with one van and one partner giving us surplus food. Now we are a UK-wide organisation, with 21 regional centres and over 450 food partners! 6,700 charities receive FareShare food, and it helps to feed nearly half a million people every week.
12. Where do you see FareShare in 5 years’ time?
Our ambition is to reach 100,000 tonnes of food being redistributed in the UK.
This depends upon various external factors, such as support from the food industry and incentives to enable them to cover the management and transport costs of getting their food to our 21 Regional Centres. In turn, we aim to be reaching 15,000 charities and community groups nationwide, enabling them to save £150m each year by receiving their food from FareShare. And with this food, the charities can then support 1.3m vulnerable people every week.
13. Are you an international organisation or do you focus on the UK only?
Our work is focussed in the UK, however we are part of a global movement around reducing food waste and addresses food poverty. We are members of the European Federation of Food Banks and the Global Foodbanking Network and regularly share knowledge and experience with similar organisations in other countries.
14. As a charity, what help do you rely on the most?
Without support from the food and drink industry, obviously our operation would struggle! But the real heroes are our volunteers. We rely on their help to run our operation, and usually have around 400 people across the country giving anything from half a day a week to full time. We are so grateful to them for helping to deliver our mission, we simply couldn’t do it without them.
15. Where does the food donated and money raised go to?
The food we receive is redistributed to charities and community groups who create nutritious, balanced meals for vulnerable and hungry people. These are often small, grassroots organisations who provide life changing support, as well as lunch and dinner.
Monetary donations are spent on our core operation – warehousing costs, chillers, racking, van lease, petrol and staffing. We’re also working to develop new projects and methods of distribution, and funding contributes towards this as well.
16. If you had to describe Fareshare in 3 words, what would they be?
‘Do-ers’, ‘Life-Changers’, ‘Community’
17. As a senior leader in an inspirational organisation, who inspires you the most and why?
Emmanuel Faber, CEO of Danone is currently leading the way with inspirational approaches to food production and its effect on the environment and consumers’ health with the campaign: One Planet, One Health. I’d love to talk to him and find out more about how this was developed.
18. How can businesses and individuals get involved to help?
- Raising awareness – sign up to our newsletter, follow us on Social Media and check out our website – then tell 5 friends to do the same!
- Volunteer – whether you can come and help at one of our centres on a regular basis, for one day only, or you’d like to volunteer in a different capacity, we are always looking for support. Find out more here….
- Donate – every £1 donated to us provides 4 meals for vulnerable and hungry people. If you would like to make a one-off or regular donation, please visit our website
19. Finally, what is your favourite cocktail?
A Singapore Sling. And if I’m lucky, in the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel – just to be truly authentic!