Our FareShare Project – food for thought?
For nearly twelve months at North Wales Housing we have been working in partnership with FareShare North Wales (Fareshare NW) which is a non-profit organisation run by recycling social enterprise Crest Co-operative. FareShare NW work to save in-date food from landfill by working with local and national food suppliers and re-distribute the surplus food to the North Wales community. Their aim is to help people who are vulnerable to food hardship.
The challenge for us as an organisation was to work out how we could work in partnership with FareShare NW in distributing the vast quantities of in-date food that FareShare NW have available at their disposal, to some of our most vulnerable tenants.
FareShare NW were up front with their challenge that many housing organisations had recognised the potential of such a partnership, but had been unable to actually get a scheme off the ground. Issues like the potential stigma attached to offering such a scheme to tenants, as well as the practicalities of where to store food were at the forefront of our minds. This was however offset by the reality that there would be tenants within our homes who would benefit from such an offer and with the onset of Welfare Reform, this would only increase over time.
The outcome of this challenge was the setting up of an innovative project within our Supported Housing Conwy and Gwynedd Dispersed Service in which we offer flats and houses to vulnerable people who have support needs. The accommodation is up to a maximum of two years with the view to moving them on to their own independent accommodation. This service area was chosen for the pilot as by its nature the staff visit and speak regularly to their service users. This tackled one of the main issues raised at the beginning – whether such a scheme would affect the on-going relationship with our tenants. The Supported Housing Dispersed staff visited FareShare NW and agreed a standard ‘pack’ of food and from the beginning of March 2013 fortnightly deliveries began to our two area offices.
One of the keys to the success of the project was that we deliberately kept the project as simple as possible, to ensure that we could get the project up and running quickly. The way the project works is that FareShare NW provide food boxes to us at a donation of £5+VAT, we then ask the end recipients for a donation towards the food box cost. The food boxes themselves contain approximately £20 of food, including foods like pasta, cereals and cooking sauces.
We have been extremely pleased with the project results to-date. We’ve distributed 320 food boxes to some of our most vulnerable tenants over a four month period, equating to three tonnes of food being saved from landfill and redistributed to tenants. We’ve had to be flexible in how we’ve stored the food and we’ve used different methods to raise awareness and distribute the food.
The feedback from the staff has been very positive and the feedback from the recipients has really been amazing, making the project really worthwhile.
Not that we are resting on our laurels. Some of the food boxes have already been distributed to tenants outside of supported housing, which has been due to a combination of word of mouth and staff awareness. We are now working hard with plans to extend the scheme to cover more of our tenants, including beyond those with support needs, who are suffering from food hardship and hence help our partners FareShare NW to save more in-date food from landfill.
Watch this space as I’ll be blogging again soon once we’ve extended the scheme.