2020-21 was a new kind of year for all of us, and for some, it presented a far greater challenge than for others. Following national lockdown, there was a steep rise in food poverty. Caused by growing unemployment and a collapse of many pre-lockdown support channels for vulnerable people. At FareShare Sussex, we’re glad to say we stepped up to the challenge., We doubled the volume of food delivered to vulnerable people by April 2020, and tripled it by July.
The Covid Crisis presented unique conditions in which to adapt: at the beginning of the pandemic, 70 of our regular volunteers could no longer work with us due to shielding, at which point we’re proud to have recruited and inducted replacements within two weeks of national lockdown. The applications have never stopped since – each week, we work to tackle food poverty with a team of 110-150 volunteers, the backbone of our endeavour, who have enabled us to provide the equivalent of 10,000 meals for the vulnerable every day!
Everyday produced a new challenge from incorporating the surplus donated from the hospitality industry, in the periods in which it was forced to shut down, to making all our premises Covid-safe. We have been helped enormously by additional Covid funding from our supporters, and by an impressive heightening of national awareness of the issue of food poverty. Marcus Rashford has used his platform to campaign tirelessly against child food poverty, calling on his millions of followers to contribute, creating the Child Food Poverty Taskforce (of which FareShare is a founding member), and even successfully influencing government policy through the #MakeTheUTurn campaign.
Citing his own experience as a child reliant on free school meals, breakfast clubs, and food banks, despite his mum working full-time to support them, Marcus says: ‘The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked’.
Our innovations don’t stop with lockdown projects: we have created a brand new website, with the kind support of local agencies Tilt and Creative Bloom, making it easier for everyone to learn about, donate to, and get involved with FareShare Sussex. We are also the proud owners of a new electric van and electric cargo bike, using funding which is enabling us to create a greener FareShare, and employ more staff to boot!
But FareShare’s essential practises continue: putting individual and corporate donations to great use in community projects. While local businesses donated a record high this year, our individual donors have also come together with us through thick and thin: people like Sarah, who has been donating since 2013, and chose to double her monthly gift last year.
I felt compelled to do something after feeling ashamed that people are living in poverty in a country like ours […] With a monthly donation I know I am doing something and FareShare can use the money where it is required.
Through Fareshare’s redistribution, these donations find their way to aiding essential local projects. Projects such as the Black and Minority Ethnic Community Partnership, a local foodbank that tailors its food packages to the cultures of its recipients, putting the humanity back into the harsh reality of food poverty; and Voices in Exile, who re-empower refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants, often otherwise denied access to mainstream services.
So however much we have learnt this year at FareShare, the heart of our mission remains the same: to make sure our food reaches those affected by food poverty, from all demographics, to battle food waste by collecting surplus that may otherwise end up in landfill, and to lift up and empower our fantastic volunteers. Our volunteer team includes ex-offenders, asylum seekers, and those with learning disabilities or mental health problems, who can progress through supported pathways and employment training in the FareShare family. Take Freya, who after suffering a stroke in 2019, was forced to end her career as a self-employed gardener, and begun volunteering with FareShare a few months later. Now, Freya is a member of FareShare’s staff team, who tells us:
‘Coming here makes me feel good about myself and it’s nice to be able to feel useful in the current situation. I like the inclusivity of FareShare, and the way you support people to volunteer here’.-Freya, cleaner
Whatever your role, there’s a way to help at FareShare!
Read our full report below and donate here: