Meeting the need in the East Midlands

For more than a decade we have been making a difference.

The origins of FareShare East Midlands go back to February 2007, when the Diocese of Leicester (Church of England) was working to support people refused asylum status. At this time, the diocese obtained Membership of FareShare. Food was collected from a depot in Birmingham and transported to Leicester. Initially, there was a monthly collection, supplying eight support groups.

During 2007, operating under the name Leicester Foodshare, volunteer drivers and helpers were recruited from churches across the diocese to meet the rapidly rising demand. And within a year, food was being supplied to 20 groups on a fortnightly basis and we were working with FareShare UK to justify our aim of becoming a fully fledged depot.

Because of the growth, premises were an urgent need. St Paul’s Worship Centre in Leicester offered their hall on a rent-free basis. And for four years, we operated from there every Monday, until we moved to one of our present homes at the Oaks Industrial Estate in Narborough.

3.9 million tonnes of food is wasted every year by the food and drink industry.

We estimate 10% of this is surplus and fit for consumption, enough food for 800 million meals.

In these early days, we were a ‘virtual organisation’, with no premises, no vehicles and no income! However, Simone Connolly became the first employee (starting on 14 September 2007) working eight hours a week. Today, Simone works tirelessly directing our operation, with a 20-strong staff and more than 40 volunteers supporting our work in the region.

FareShare UK officially approved our application to become a ‘van franchise’, in July, 2008. But nobody foresaw the financial crash and the problems it would create to frustrate our ambitions. It was in those early days that the “can do” culture that serves FareShare East Midlands so well, was developed.

We sought to acquire and distribute as much food as possible, starting with ambient food and then expanding into bakery and fresh fruit and vegetables. We set up “back of store” collections for our members to work with local supermarkets, and we also sought partnerships with local food companies.

Funding for our work came from donations until our first grant from the Church Urban Fund arrived in 2009. Subsequently, the Global Foodbanking Network became a major funder, with money also being donated by the Caterpillar Foundation.

We became a registered company in March 2011, a registered charity a year later – before moving to the Oaks Industrial Estate in December 2012. And since then, everything has developed at a breathtaking pace. Year-on-year, we have seen the amount of food we distribute, double, triple and quadruple. And there is no sign of our growth levels slowing down.

Moving on to 2018, we opened up our third, and largest, regional distribution centre in the South Wigston area of Leicester. This facility is helping us cope with the 60% growth in donations we experienced last year – and it will also accommodate the anticipated 40% growth we are expecting in 2019.

Since our inception, we have been responsible for donating the surplus food equivalent of 12 million meals. In 2018, almost a quarter of this total was delivered to approximately 250 Member organisations.

What a decade it has been. And what a busy future beckons for everyone involved with FareShare East Midlands.

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