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Among FareShare’s very generous suppliers is Brakes, one of the UK’s leading foodservice companies, which has partnered with FareShare for many years. The winner of numerous industry awards, Brakes provides food, drink and catering supplies to schools, hospitals, pubs and restaurants across the country from its network of depots. 

Brakes was bought in 2016 by US multinational Sysco, the world’s largest foodservice company. Since then, over £200 million has been invested in the company to improve services and expand its food ranges. 

We caught up with Steven Wood, a stock investigator at Brakes’ depot in Aylesford, a village situated just outside Maidstone. As a stock investigator he is tasked with ensuring everything is in the right place and correct before being delivered to customers, and to investigate when things are not. Having worked for Brakes for 22 years, he was able to give us a good insight into their operations.

“Sometimes things get ordered by the customer in error and we can’t hold it in our depot or resell it, like fresh meat and fruit and vegetables,” Steven tells us. “For example, a client has asked for one carrot and telesales has mis-keyed it and 101 carrots arrive, so we end up with 100 spare carrots. We can’t resell them and so we give them to FareShare.” 

Other instances where food can’t be sold include if they get past a certain date despite still being ‘in-date’. Or if a unit is unable to store the produce for one reason or another. 

“Also, because we are a wholesaler, if we have a case of six tins of beans and one tin is dented, we can’t resell the other five undamaged tins. So we give FareShare the five spare tins,” says Steven.   

Another example Steven shared with us involved their customer Joe & The Juice. “They have a shop in Bluewater, and as it was closed, they asked us if we could deliver to another of their shops on the other side of Bermondsey. However, our depot doesn’t deliver that far, so we had to cancel the order. Those apples then got passed on to FareShare.” 

During the pandemic, Brakes had spare drivers to deliver produce to FareShare. Now FareShare drivers come to the depot to pick up deliveries. Steven explains that sometimes they struggle to get everything on the van. With fruit and vegetables the priority, they can put other things to one side for later deliveries.  

The company’s business had been severely impacted during the pandemic. With hospitality closed, their operations obviously got much smaller. Steven told us, however, that they still had their core base of customers, like hospitals and schools. They also supplied the Covid-19 test kits. 

During the first nationwide lockdown, Brakes along with Bidfood, another leading UK foodservice wholesaler, was contracted by the government to deliver the weekly care food packages to people at high risk from the virus unable to get access to food.

Marcus Rashford MBE English professional footballer who plays as a forward for Premier League club Manchester United and the England national team visiting FareShare Greater Manchester at New Smithfield Market.

As well as supplying FareShare, Brakes is also helping reduce food poverty in other ways. Last year Brakes joined Marcus Rashford’s Child Food Poverty Task Force to endorse government policy recommendations to expand access to free school meals and increase the value of food vouchers. It also runs its own Meals & More charity, which provides meals for vulnerable children, and supports food provision at more than 150 children clubs.