A leading East Midlands charity has seen demand for its surplus food services soar by more than 60% during the last 12 months.
Releasing its annual figures, FareShare East Midlands has revealed it was responsible for distributing more than 2.95 million meals throughout 2018 – a year-on-year growth of 62% (2017: 1.9 million).
Demand continues to increase, with the charity anticipating growth of at least 40% during the next 12 months (January to December 2019).
And Simone Connolly, director of FareShare East Midlands, is warning that unless something drastic changes soon, the region could be facing a major crisis in its cities and towns, with young people aged 18 and under, those most at risk from the effects of food poverty.
“We have seen demand soar – and it continues to climb,” she said. “We have a real problem in our communities and we need to act now to ensure the many thousands of people who are in need of food get access to it.
“The fact we are today reporting record results is of no pleasure to anyone associated with FareShare East Midlands. If anything, it is a source of deep regret, as this is an indictment of our society. When people, many of who are in work, can’t afford to feed themselves, and their families, then it’s time to recognise there is something wrong with our social fabric.
“We are doing all we can to help as many people as possible – particularly younger people who, through no fault of their own, really struggle to get access to the foods they need when their families are facing financial hardship. But other organisations also need to think bigger than they presently are doing if we are collectively going to stand any chance of getting to grips with the scale of this problem.”
FareShare East Midlands was formed in 2008. Its initial remit was to support people living in Leicester experiencing food hunger. Gradually, its focus changed from the city to the wider region. And, in 2014, demand really started to grow.
Today, more than 250 organisations throughout the region access FareShare’s extensive range of surplus food supplies, which are distributed from 2three centres located in Leicester and Chesterfield. Among the beneficiaries are growing numbers of schools, voluntary organisations, community cafes and food banks.
And within three years, FareShare East Midlands expects to be supporting more than 400 organisations and distributing the equivalent of 5 million meals annually.
To enable greater numbers of organisations to be able to access its food supplies, FareShare East Midlands is seeking to establish more local collection points in cities and towns like Nottingham, Derby and Grantham.
And it will be increasing the amount of free food available to local charities and community groups from its new partnership with the Central England Cooperative Society.
“The overall goal is to make sure we have a tangible presence in all major areas in the region,” added Simone Connolly. “So many people are in need and, unless we can create the right kind of infrastructure, they will continue to struggle to get access to food.
“At FareShare East Midlands, we are totally focussed on the people we are not yet reaching. This dictates everything we do and has been the driving force behind the many innovations we have launched in recent months.
“Our decision to launch local collection points will, we hope, make a very positive contribution to this goal. As will our relationship with the Coop, which is providing high quality surplus food that’s making a huge difference to so many organisations.”