Edinburgh FareShare Food Collection by Christopher Somerville
FareShare is a national UK charity supporting communities to relieve food poverty. FareShare is at the centre of two of the most urgent issues that face the UK: food poverty and food waste.
The charity addresses these issues in three ways:
- Providing quality food – surplus ‘fit for purpose’ product from the food and drink industry – to organisations working with disadvantaged people in the community
- Providing training and education around the essential life skills of safe food preparation and nutrition, and warehouse employability training through FareShare’s Skills Training programme
- Promoting the message that ‘No Good Food Should Be Wasted’
FareShare has been operating since 2004 as an independent charity and today has 17 locations around the UK. Established in 1994 as a project within the homelessness charity Crisis, FareShare aims to help vulnerable groups, whether they are homeless, elderly, children, or other groups in food poverty within our communities.
FareShare Helps Improve Lives:
- In 2012/13, the food redistributed by FareShare contributed towards more than 10 million meals
- The FareShare Community Food Network has over 1,000 Community Members across the UK receiving food, training and advice
- Every day an average of 51,000 people benefit from the service FareShare provides
- As well as redistributing food, FareShare provides a programme of education and vocational training opportunities.
- The redistribution of food by FareShare minimises surplus food going to landfill
- This redistribution of food helped businesses reduce CO2 emissions by 1,850 tonnes in 2012/13
Brian and the 5K
Brian is one volunteer who has set himself the challenge of running a sponsored 5k as part of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. This will be a great personal achievement for Brian and he is using the training as another way to improve his life and to increase his self confidence.
Brian used to own a successful plumbing business, however due to the economic climate, he received payment for less and less work and found fewer and fewer customers. This continued for months and, although the business was failing, Brian refused to give up. He ploughed more and more money into it and was working 16 to 20 hours a day to try to keep it afloat.
He lived on no sleep and lots of energy drinks until eventually he suffered from a nervous breakdown. Following his release from hospital Brian left everything behind. He left his hometown and became homeless and slept rough for 6 months in Edinburgh. After an attempted suicide he spent two weeks in hospital and following a year of moving between hostels and bed and breakfasts, he got a flat of his own.
This was a great step but Brian became reclusive and, he avoided social situations. He didn’t want to let others down and didn’t want anyone else to let him down. The simplest thing was to speak to no one. After 18 months of living like this, Brian came to Volunteer at GoodFood.
He’s been a fantastic volunteer for the last 4 months. He volunteers 4 or 5 days a week and is often in before 7am and sometimes doesn’t leave until 6pm! He loves volunteering and feels like it has changed his life, given a purpose and helped to set a routine. It’s getting him back into the work routine and he is feeling really positive about the future. Completing the 5k will be a great boost to Brian’s self esteem and will be a fantastic marker for how far he has come.
Chorizo: because you’re worth it
It’s always exciting to show people round our depot for the first time, even more so when you have no idea what food’s in the depot, and worse still when it’s that time of the day or week when there’s very little here. Much of our food is on a short date code so it tends to go out the day after it came in. At weekends we try to empty as far as possible because that’s two days in a row without delivery.
Monday morning is the most empty our depot gets. And so it was a Monday morning, of course, when I was showing some visitors round. What a boring place we were: vans out on collections; no food in the depot; no volunteers around. Three people who had never been here before were following me round the depot as I walked past empty spaces where I would have pointed out the big bags of potatoes or fruit and veg.
In the first fridge I found half a tray of lemons and my heart sank. Not even a pint of milk. Finally in the old fridge room there was one stack in the corner. As we approached I hoped it was a good one and not a pile of pasta someone had thoughtfully put in the wrong place. Chorizo, brilliant! And Marks & Spencer’s too. I had to explain the value of this brand to our foreign visitors but it looked absolutely beautiful and really spoke for itself. As I held it aloft in triumph I was reminded of our DVD.
A figure is talking about being fed in hostels. The words still ring in my ear: “We are being fed rubbish, because we are rubbish…” What a hopeless situation. When you have walked the streets, with people turning away, or crossing the road to avoid you, it’s only common sense to feel worthless.
“… but then things start to change…” FareShare come in with fresh veg, meat, milk and strawberries. The residents have a different outlook; they are of value. One of my favourite hostel chefs will have a field day with this food. I imagine Chorizo in all sorts of dishes, all beautifully presented and looking more like a proper night out than another hostel dinner. Even those places where people cook for themselves will love this food. Cheesy pasta is so more rewarding when there is sliced Chorizo through it; that slightly spicy tang infusing the bowl with something a bit special.
I look at our own volunteers later on: Bob has finally kicked the heroin and is determined to do something useful for society. He has few employable skills as yet but is getting work experience through volunteering with us. Gill’s husband abused her until she was just a shell; she builds herself into a person again by mothering the folks she’s alongside. Joseph was self employed until a nervous breakdown took all his confidence. He’s carefully putting things back together bv using his skills with us. And what is the benefit the Chorizo brings? Food in hungry bellies – yes; good nutrition – certainly.
The real change though is what I see every day, people moving from feeling worthless to recognising worth, both in their own eyes and the eyes of those around. Even those who just carry it around are benefitting from the valuable work they do. How a person values themselves is not an easy task, personal worth is fragile and takes a long time to build. But for the hostel residents they know they’re worth at least some nice Chorizo, and that’s a step in the right direction.
As I watch the food go out the door the following morning I am jealous. I resolve: tonight I will go to M&S, buy a Chorizo and maybe some nice crusty bread. I too, will share in the joy of being worth something.
Christopher Somerville is Manager at FareShare at Edinburgh Cyrenians