A day in the life of a FareShare depot

On a Tuesday morning at a trading estate in the heart of Deptford, dozens of volunteers don their high-vis jackets and get to work sorting pallets of food to be distributed around London.

Photo source: FareShare

The FareShare warehouse operates from Monday to Friday and on Saturday mornings, taking food deliveries from manufacturers and sending them on to charities.

Apart from a few full-time staff members, the warehouse runs with the help of 100 volunteers who give up their time to take food orders and sort them into packages.

Rachel Ledwith, development manager at Fareshare, told News Shopper that “demand is up” despite the impressive number of volunteers.

She said: “We’re seeing demand increase from charities. Some charities are finding it harder to find funding and local authority cuts have also hit them hard.”

The 45-year-old who traded a life in the corporate sector for charity work added that Fareshare’s Deptford warehouse ideally needs to recruit another 100 volunteers to meet this increasing demand.

The charity works with manufacturers all over the country to take in food that is within its use-by date. From the warehouse, which is full of fresh produce, the food is transferred to different charities.

Picking up a vine of ripe cherry tomatoes, Rachel said: “I don’t know a single person who wouldn’t eat these.”

She also gestured towards punnets of nectarines and plums stacked in piles, adding, “this is not about second-class food for second-class citizens.”

Photo source: FareShare

An enormous, industrial-sized chiller contains pallets of dairy and meat products which have been delivered to the warehouse. Among the items up for grabs are blocks of Parmesan cheese, buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto legs, as well as sweet treats like trifles.

“The meals that get created with our food are so much more than in a soup kitchen,” Rachel said.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with meals created from tinned food but this is the kind of fresh food that makes people feel really valued and makes a difference.

The charity, which has been running for 25 years, has celebrated creating nearly 1.7 million meals across London over the last year.

Staff at FareShare believe the food they distribute does more than simply stop people from going hungry. The products it provides are often used in ‘social supermarkets’ which invite people in need to come and eat while receiving support from others. They also help people back into work by helping to feed families.

“If I’m hungry, I can’t focus on applying for jobs. If I’m hungry and I’ve got a family to feed, there’s no way I’m in the right state of mind to be applying for jobs,” Rachel explained.

Photo source: FareShare

Although plenty of the warehouse volunteers live in the area, some people travel in from as far as Hastings to help out each week.

“It really says a lot about what we do, that people are willing to sit for an hour on the tube to get here and back,” Rachel said.

“Most of the people who volunteer and work here; we’re all driven by the fact that food can make such a difference to someone’s life.

“It’s not just the fact that you’re helping to stop someone going hungry – it’s the wraparound services that really make a life-changing difference.”

By Jessica Taylor for News Shopper