Jamie in action at the FareShare depot in Bermondsey, London.
FareShare takes food from supermarkets and manufacturers that would otherwise be thrown out because it’s getting near to its sell-by date, and delivers it to community projects and charities around the country so it can be eaten by the people they support.
I’ve been volunteering at FareShare for 3 months. Originally I started out on a placement to help me into work, but because it has gone so well I’ve extended it for another three months. I come in four days a week and help out with the food deliveries and the day to day running of the depot.
A typical day volunteering at FareShare starts at 7.30am with the bread delivery. Around 60 full trays of bread are delivered every day - it was made for sale the day before so it's still fresh, but no one bought it so the baker delivers it to FareShare instead of throwing it away.
I take the bread and sort it into trays, making sure everything’s in-date and in good condition to send out on the vans. Once it’s ready to go, it’s time to phone FareShare’s community food members - charities and groups who get food from FareShare - to let them know what’s in store for them in their delivery that day. What we get changes day to day, so it’s important to let the members know what to expect.
Then it’s back out to the warehouse with the other volunteers to pick all of the orders for the day and load them onto the vans. Some of the charities FareShare works with have big kitchens where they feed around 200 people a day so their orders are massive and take a while to put together! Lots of different food companies work with FareShare so there’s usually a wide range on offer, from basics like pasta and cereal, to treats like steaks and chocolate. Deliveries come in throughout the day so there’s always activity in the warehouse.
Once the vans are packed up I’ll go out with one of them along with another two volunteers to deliver the food. Different days have different delivery routes so I get to see different parts of London, which is great. What’s surprising is that some of the charities that get the food from FareShare are in posh areas, where you wouldn’t expect people to be going hungry. Delivering the food to people less fortunate than me is the best thing about volunteering here. Knowing that we're making a difference to someone's day is a great feeling and it's a good day out.
After we've delivered food to all the projects on the list for that day, we head over to the head office of a supermarket where they’ve collected all the surplus food from their stores together for us to pick up. We load the van up again, and then it's time to head back to the FareShare depot to sort this food out into trays and get it ready to start again the next day!
There's always jobs to be done like stock checking, which I find the most challenging as you have to be very accurate. It's nice being around the warehouse though because the team at FareShare are really friendly and like a close-knit family, so we have a laugh.
Volunteering in the depot gives me opportunities to use my forklift truck driving skills too! I got my qualification through FareShare, and moving food deliveries around the depot helps me keep in practice.
Volunteering at FareShare has given me new skills and also shown me a different side of London. Delivering to food to people less fortunate than me is the best thing about it and gives me a lot of satisfaction, and it’s something that I could recommend to anyone.
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This article was written by Jamie Beaton, a volunteer for FareShare from from South East London. It originally appeared in Charity Choice magazine issue 6.