Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

current issue

February – March 2024 : The little things READ ONLINE


Distribution monopoly?

May 20 2009
Small projects could suffer from Fareshare‘s dominance Large supermarkets have been donating their end-of-day waste food to hostels, charity kitchens and under-funded community projects for years. However, the method for getting the food out of the back door and to those who need it has undergone some changes recently. In the last edition, one Pavement reader wrote of their concern that the distribution of Marks & Spencer sandwiches had changed in recent months, and rather than going directly to projects through established volunteers, a third-party organisation was redirecting the produce through its own network of suppliers. This organisation is FareShare, launched in 1998 by Lord Sainsbury as part of a Crisis campaign, 'Waste Not Want Not', which found that UK supermarkets and catering outlets dispose of ¬¨¬£386m of food a year that could be given to charity. The project was successfully piloted in London before seven more projects opened across the UK. The organisation became independent in 2003, and today FareShare works with more than 100 food businesses. Last year, it redirected 2,000 tons of edible produce that contributed to 3.3m meals for 12,000 people. A spokesperson for the organisation said their growing coverage enabled them to help more people. "This way the food goes to homeless people, in hostels, day centres and drop-in services, but also to other disadvantage people in the community such as refugees in refugee centres, vulnerable children in breakfast clubs, or elderly people in nursing homes," they said. "FareShare has six depots in Brighton, London, Birmingham, Barnsley, Dundee and Edinburgh, from which we provide a food delivery service to 52 towns and cities. In these areas, a central service within the community makes the redistribution of food far more effective and allows FareShare to provide food towards a balanced menu of nutritious meals." FareShare claims that the money saved by local charitable agencies, which totalled ¬¨¬£5m in 2005, is used to provide other services such as training, medical services and counselling, which are intended to help vulnerable people to rebuild their lives. However, there are fears in the homeless community that such a large third-party network could mean that many small projects will be over-looked, and hostels that used to deal with supermarkets direct will have to apply to have their food redirected through FareShare. Recent changes in legislation mean that large food companies must demonstrate social responsibility, becoming more involved in their communities and finding waste alternatives to landfills. Some, such as Marks & Spencer, have been redistributing food to various under-funded projects across the UK for a long time; with M&S racking up more than 30 years. The corporate spokesperson for Marks and Spencer said: "We have 185 food stores participating in the food waste scheme and only six of these use FareShare, and the only store in the South is Brighton, so it certainly could not be considered a monopoly. We are very supportive of them." She added: "The decisions on food distribution are made by the managers in local stores, and whatever decisions are made, there will be people who are not happy with them. There are a lot of assumptions made about Marks and Spencer, but we are trying to do what is in the best interest of our local communities."