Christie Garratt makes no bones about it: “Over 8,000,000 people in the UK, equivalent to one in eight, are struggling to afford food.”
She’s the senior press officer of food champions FareShare.
Of the hundreds of thousands of charities in the UK, they are in a unique position.
They work to tackle hunger and food waste, by supplying organisations with products which would have otherwise gone in the bin.
She said: “250,000 tonnes of food goes to waste within the supply chain alone each year.”
Garratt says it’s an unfortunate fact that for some families struggling to get by, be it paying the bills or buying the kids school uniforms, food is ‘one of the first things to go’.
It’s common for adults to skip meals in order to pay for such necessities.
There’s an environmental side to the problem too.
As FareShare’s promo material says: ‘If food waste were a country it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.’
Garratt explained that food which is surplus to requirements from places like major supermarkets, which has not necessarily gone off, can be used to fight these problems.
A lot of the time what makes food surplus can be basic things like cosmetic damage to the packaging or even a misprint on the label.
For example, Garratt said: “We’ve had chicken noddle soup.”
FareShare has centres in 21 regions including Wales, Northern Ireland and Merseyside.
Organisations they help include food banks, hostels and hospices.
Garratt said, “We support 11,000 charities and community groups across the UK.
“In London it’s over 200 and we estimate that we’re reaching almost 1,000,000 people a week and providing almost a million meals a week.”
Lucy Heyderman works in volunteer engagement and as a warehouse assistant at FareShare in London.
She used to volunteer at a day centre for young homeless people in Brighton, where she encountered first hand the power of their work.
She said: “It’s so much more than just about feeding people.”
After they’ve eaten, people feel comfortable and reassured.
This makes them more likely to ask for other help they might need, be it housing, counselling or financial aid.
Food acts as a gateway for people to access other services.
This can have the effect of lifting them out of a bad situation, to a place where they can live happier lives.
Garratt described volunteers as ‘the absolute life blood of our operation’.
Indeed FareShare is in desperate need of them at the moment because of coronavirus.
I went out on a delivery with a voluntary van driver.
He was a hardworking, jovial man, committed to the value of what FareShare does.
If you are interested in volunteering, visit www.fareshare.org.uk/volunteer