Guest Blog: Visiting FareShare for the first time

by Steve Huckle.

I wanted to have a look around FareShare’s warehouse in Moulsecoomb to find out more about the charity’s work. I also wanted to take my two daughters up there; if we’re to solve the growing problem of homelessness, then it’s important that the next generation cares much more than mine. I thought showing the girls FareShare’s work firsthand would help them empathise with those much less privileged than they.  Hence, on the afternoon of Wednesday 22nd February, after their yoga class at Unity Studios on Lewes Road, we all went up to meet Beth, FareShare Sussex’s Fundraising & Communications Manager.

“Great to meet you,” I told Beth, shaking her hand. “Likewise,” she replied. “And who are these two lovely ladies?” asked Beth, turning to the girls. “This is Kyra,” I said, introducing my 12-year old daughter, “and this is Tara,” pointing to my 9-year old. “Hello,” they told Beth in unison.

Beth proceeded to show us around and tell us all about their operation. “So we get lots of food from local farms and places like Tesco.” “Tesco?” I asked, surprised. “Well, yeah – they’re actually doing great work. They’re making a real commitment to reducing their food waste.” “That’s good to hear!” I told her. “But how come they give you all this stuff? Is it food that has passed its sell-by date?” “No,” replied Beth, “All the food we get is within date. It’s more likely that items sweet potatoesare overstocked. Or, in the case of a farm, that the produce isn’t of sufficient grade. It’s still good, though!” she said, showing us some gorgeous looking sweet potatoes that were, perhaps, just a little smaller than I’d usually see at a supermarket. Next to the sweet potatoes were huge sacks of swedes and some lovely looking carrots. In the middle of the floor was a consignment of fruit.

“These peaches are a little softer than you’d normally find at a supermarket,” Beth told us, handing one to Kyra. “Yeah, but they’re nice like that!” Kyra exclaimed. “I agree,” replied Beth: “even if they’re really soft, we still don’t waste them. It just means that the charities we distribute to have to get creative, and perhaps make a crumble or something.”

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Then we got shown some of the cold stores, filled with all sorts of lovely food. There were mushrooms, yogurts, deserts and all sorts of meats. One store was stocked full of Higgidy boxes, a local producer from Shoreham who specialises in pies and quiches. “It smells nice in here!” said Kyra, walking into one of the stores that held fresh organic stock. What struck me was the fantastic quality of everything. It all looked delicious!

IMG_3843Beth then introduced us to Sophie, who was sat at a busy looking desk, strewn with consignment slips and order details. She is FareShare Sussex’s Depot Manager, with responsibility for organising the deliveries, amongst lots of other things. “This morning’s delivery came from Tesco in Avonmouth,” she told me. “Avonmouth?” I asked: “but that’s way over near Bristol!” I said, incredulous. “Well, yeah, I know it sounds crazy,” Sophie continued: “but stores like Tesco have massive distribution centres, so we get consignments that suit their logistical operations, the stage before it hits the shelves.” “And where does all this stuff go?” I asked. “We distribute to nearly one-hundred charities all over Sussex; from Hastings to Bognor Regis and many right here in Brighton.” “And what does an ordinary day look like?” “Well, we open the warehouse at 8:30 and shut again at 8pm. We take in deliveries all day, and do deliveries ourselves all day too. However, the evening deliveries are slightly different because we pick up surplus from places like Pret A Manger,” Sophie told me. “Sounds busy!” “Yes!” she replied: “And the next day it begins all over again!” Indeed, just as Sophie was telling us how busy they were, a couple of guys from the warehouse started picking items from a list ready to be delivered later that evening. We didn’t want to hold her up any longer, so after thanking Sophie for her time, the girls and I made a hasty retreat!

We got to have another chat with Beth on the way out. “How long have you worked here?” I asked. “Nearly three years now,” she told me. “Well, I think you’re very lucky to be here. FareShare is fantastic! I love the combination of tackling food waste, feeding the homeless and helping disadvantaged people get back to work. “Yes,” replied Beth: “the work here is incredibly rewarding.” “I’m just puzzled as to why I’d never heard of FareShare before,” I told her. “Well, indeed; that’s what I’m trying to change. It’s also why your blog could be important – the more publicity, the better! Perhaps you could write something about what the girls thought of their visit?” “Of course!” I replied.

Later that evening, sat around the dinner table, I asked the girls what they thought of FareShare: “I like that they distribute food that would otherwise get thrown away,” Kyra told me. “And I like that they are trying to work out meal plans that maximise the nutritional benefit for the homeless,” she continued. “But most of all, I like that they give people treats, too. I think it’s important that people smile.” Kyra’s right – it’s probably not too often that the homeless get rewarded with something as delicious as a chocolate desert. I’m sure that brings a little bit of enjoyment into lives that might normally be devoid of such joy. “What about you, Tara? What did you think of FareShare?” I asked. “I think the people there were really kind,” she told me.  Tara, as usual, nailed it; the French philosopher Albert Schweitzer once remarked: “Constant kindness can accomplish much.” FareShare is an excellent example of that. Moreover, in a world that seems to be getting ever harsher, their operation spreads a little generosity to those who otherwise receive none. For that reason alone, we should cherish what they do.