Councillor Lee Marsham visited Fareshare Midlands recently to find out more about the escalating impact of the cost of living crisis and its disastrous impact on local charities and their beneficiaries. The Labour Councillor has been representing the Nechells Ward since May 2022, and is passionate about the environment, holding the position of Chair of Sustainability and Transport Overview & Scrutiny Committee. FareShare Midlands is the largest food redistribution charity in the region, taking healthy surplus food from the food industry and getting it to local people experiencing food poverty, financial hardship and social isolation.
As the costs of food, energy, fuel and mortgages have continued to increase, a recent survey of FareShare Midlands members confirmed that 90% are worried about continuing to meet demand, 65% are worried they might have to close over the next 6 months, and 69% are seeing new people access their services, with families with children as the most common group. Currently, 13 million people in the UK are facing food insecurity, and 132,000 children are living in poverty in Birmingham alone.
During the visit, the Councillor learned how each day FareShare Midlands receives good-to-eat surplus food from the food industry, redistributing 5,670 tonnes last year alone. The food arrives into three warehouses, where it is sorted and stored by dedicated teams of staff and volunteers. The supplies are then redistributed to FareShare Midlands members which are charities and community groups including community centres, homeless shelters and children’s breakfast/school holiday clubs.
Volunteers provide priceless support to FareShare Midlands with driving the vans, helping to sort and store food in the warehouses, and performing administrative tasks in the offices. The volunteers say that their time at FareShare Midlands helps them build new skills, develop confidence, make new friends and feel like they are doing something great, while giving back to their community. When asked a range of questions 90% of volunteers were either very satisfied or satisfied, 97% would recommend volunteering at FareShare Midlands and 99% of them felt valued by the organisation.
The Councillor was also impressed with the Employability Programmes FareShare Midlands provides in Birmingham. People can find themselves unemployed for a variety of reasons, and the impact of a job loss during the cost of living crisis is even more devastating. FareShare Midlands employability service offers training, work experience and job interviews. The Elevate Programme, provided in partnership with The Centre for Ageing Better, is for those over 50 and at risk of redundancy, and stops older people falling out work for good. The I-Can Programme helps people find jobs in warehousing and logistics and includes the opportunity to gain a fork lift truck licence and accredited qualification in warehousing.
The Councillor spent some time volunteering in the Nechells warehouse and said:
"FareShare Midlands do an incredible job of fighting food hunger, tackling food waste and improving the jobs prospects for people in our communities. It was great to learn more about their work first hand, to thank the hardworking staff and volunteers, and to lend a hand”.
Simone Connolly, Chief Executive, FareShare Midlands said:
“We were delighted to provide the Councillor with a greater understanding of how we strive to support Birmingham communities by redistributing good quality surplus food and offering flexible employability services to help get people back into work. We loved having the Councillor volunteer in our warehouse and hope he comes back soon! We are so grateful for his help raising awareness of the chronic need across Birmingham. There is no end in sight for the cost of living crisis, and we continue to need financial donations, the support of more volunteers in the warehouse, and more people to join our employability programmes. We hope this event will encourage local businesses and people to support us and help drive change across the City.”
Due to the increases in food, fuel and energy costs FareShare Midlands urgently needs support. The organisation needs local people with spare time and a passion for food and/or the environment. To explore our rich and rewarding volunteer opportunities, please visit this page: https://faresharemidlands.org.uk/volunteer-with-us/.
By supporting us with a regular gift, you will enable us to continue delivering surplus food to charities and community groups across the Midlands. Your donation will help us to reach vulnerable men, women and children living in food poverty and each £1 donated provides 4 meals: https://faresharemidlands.org.uk/donate/.
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