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With unprecedented demand for food bank parcels putting a strain on local communities, fine food brands and retailers have been partnering with charities such as FareShare along with their local food banks to distribute food and drink to those who need it most.
How independent retailers can get involved
As fine food retailers are naturally embedded in their local communities, there are lots of ways for them to get involved with food banks and similar charities.
According to Simon Jones, co-owner of Forest Deli, “I feel all food shops can help their local food banks, and I am sure many do. One of our customers said a couple of years ago, it’s not just giving the absolute basics, sometimes a nice packet of biscuits is a lovely thing to donate as it would cheer a person or family up.
“Our Christmas Raffle to win a luxury local hamper is also used to raise funds for the food bank, we also ask for donations for some of our tasting events, but there is never any pressure to donate as we all appreciate that times are hard for most, and there are other local charities very much in need as well.
“Having said all that, the true heroes are the volunteers in the food banks – some of the stories they recount are beyond heartbreaking, and they deal with people all day every day without judgement or complaint. It is tragic that food banks are needed in this country, but the work the food banks do is truly life-saving and amazing and we are pleased to be able to help in any way we can.”
But as Lucy Antal, senior project manager at Feedback Global, explained, indies should start by asking what their local drive needs.
“Just dumping random surplus food isn’t helpful. Any bulk discounts or wholesale savings you can pass on or support community food pantries will be welcomed. If you have short-date fresh food to donate, connect with the local communities who are offering meals.
“The big give starts next week, and lots of charities, including ours, are seeking to raise funds and get match funding. Have a fundraising supper, a bake sale or simply bring lunch in for your colleagues and get donations. Every penny helps!”
Aligning fine food values
Fine food producers and retailers are naturally aligned with the values of charities like FareShare, with the belief that everyone should have access to healthy, sustainable food and drink.
As Laura Dickinson, brand manager at Cawston Press, which is donating 100,000 kids drinks and the equivalent of 140,000 meals to FareShare, told Speciality Food, “We admire what FareShare have managed to achieve across the years and are very proud to be able to partner with such a great charity that has similar values to Cawston Press.
“This is all about our team living our values day in day out, ‘Do Right’ being a great example but having understood the scale of the problem we are also going to ‘Dive In’.
“So, this is key to the core of the business. As such it forms part of our ‘Pressing for Better’ Strategy, here I’d call out two key commitments from this 10-step plan; ‘Less Food Waste’ and ‘Healthier Communities. The whole team have been engaged and energised about how we can help and do better, especially during such times of hardship for so many.”
Similarly, Gordon Rhodes Ltd, based in Bradford, has been working with FareShare Yorkshire to redistribute over 900kg of surplus gourmet sauce mixes to its network of charities in the region.
Jonathan Batchelor, brand manager at Gordon Rhodes explained, “We are proud to be able to contribute this substantial donation and support the fantastic work that FareShare Yorkshire does, especially as the demand for surplus food is as high as ever and likely to increase as the cost-of-living crisis worsens.
“We have seen first-hand how important donations of this kind are to disadvantaged communities and the difference they make by ensuring vulnerable people have food to eat.”
For Simon, working with his local food bank just made sense for his business. “From when we opened nearly five years ago, we chose our local food bank as the main charity we would support, being in the food business it made sense, and sadly the need now is increasing all the time.
“We have a collection tin on the counter all the time, and we have an option on the till for customers to donate as fewer people carry cash these days.
“Our customers helped starting with the arrival of Covid when we set up a delivery business, delivering not only our products but including the bakers, greengrocers and butchers and we asked for food bank donations in lieu of a delivery charge. Many customers still do this now”, he explained.