In the 1950s, it was felt that poverty in the UK was a thing of the past. However, in the first three months of 2012 the UK economy returned to recession, shrinking by an estimated 0.2%. The knock on effect of the Government’s austerity measures is affecting standards of living amongst most households, with some families struggling to pay the mortgage, nursery fees, fill the tank or even meet their most basic needs – the supermarket bill.
Over 4 million people in the UK live in food poverty, lacking access to healthy affordable food. FareShare is one of many charities which have stepped in to fill the gap, and indeed empty stomachs. The group, managed by volunteers, collects donations of food from large multi-national retailers, and redistributes it to 65 communities and organisations with immediate need to provide meals to people. At the same time, it reduces some of the annual 8.3 million tons of food waste in the UK.
Sebastien Serayat is the Project Manager for FareShare North West and explained how it works, “We serve approximately 70 organisations in Manchester and the North West with perfectly in date crates of food that is donated to FareShare. For example the outer packaging from a packet of muesli or tins of baked beans may have been missing. Fresh fruit and vegetables are also donated & stored in huge fridges and meat in freezers.”
Over fifty volunteers work at the North West branch of the charity, sorting food orders and loading up a refrigerated van for deliveries. Some of these volunteers are long term unemployed or have a lack of formal education. The organisation also offers work experience and training opportunities to get them back on the job ladder.
One volunteer, John, has benefitted from the charity. “FareShare changed my life. I was at the end of my tether; lost my job, home, everything. I was in a terrible way. FareShare provide food to people who have hit hard times like me and it made all the difference. They also offered me a training opportunity so that I could get back to work. I’m stronger now so want to give something back because I know what it’s like.”
The charity delivers food to some of the most deprived areas of Greater Manchester. One group which receives the food deliver is The Factory Youth Zone, a breakfast and lunch club in Harpurhey – a Manchester ward where more than half the children are living in poverty according to the M.E.N’s special report on child poverty. The club, which is opposite a fast food restaurant, provides up to 170 young people a week with a nutritious, affordable meal.
Some of the young people who I spoke to (but preferred to remain anonymous) regularly eat meals at The club saying; “it’s good that we are able to get the food which is thrown away even though there is nothing wrong with it” and “it’s good because we can try new things for free and get a meal for nearly nothing at all”
Loaves and Fishes, a homeless charity in Salford, also benefits from the donations. The busy canteen staff has served meals to 3,500 people this year that would otherwise be sleeping on the streets of Manchester. Audrey, one of the cooks explains, “With the support of FareShare we are able to provide healthier food to the men and women coming in for help.”
In the run up to Christmas, when pressure on finances can be at boiling point for some families, Fareshare will be at its busiest. Sebastien quote here, “We would be really interested in hearing from new volunteers, or other organisations who would be willing to supply food… etc.”
Notes to Editors
Families living in poverty*: 1140 (48%)
Children living in poverty*: 2170 (50%)
* Defined as living on less than 60% of average income. Extracted from M.E.N’s special report on child poverty. http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/s/1588681_child-poverty-scandal-men-joins-frontline-in-battle-to-feed-manchesters-hungry-children