This week I decided to head to the FareShare’s North East regional distribution centre to volunteer as a warehouse assistant. Read on to find out how FareShare is redistributing surplus food to charities, who can then bring delicious, healthy meals to those who need them.
What is FareShare?
Established in 1994, FareShare is the UK’s longest running food redistribution charity. With centres in 1,500 towns and cities across the UK, FareShare’s impact is far reaching.
I spoke to Volunteer Coordinator Becca Ball from FareShare’s North East centre about what FareShare does and what happens in the warehouse. Check out my interview with her in the video below!
As explained in the video, FareShare receives fresh, in date food from the food industry that would otherwise go to waste, sorts through it, and redistributes it to local charities and community groups.
The work that they do therefore means that charities can provide free meals for those who need them the most, which can in turn have a significant impact on people’s everyday lives.
I asked Becca about how the amazing work that FareShare does benefits people in the local community. She said:
“The food that we get out to the charities and the people that need it most really does make a difference. For example, we provide food for many school breakfast clubs across the North East.
“The food that we give them might be the only food a child gets in the morning before they start school. By starting off the day with good breakfast, that child will be able to concentrate more and be more productive.
“And that just speaks a thousand words for me, and I think for many others too.”
As well as benefitting those who receive the food that comes through the FareShare distribution centre, volunteering at FareShare also has a positive impact on the volunteers themselves. Becca said:
“Volunteering at FareShare is a great way to give something back and it’s a really rewarding experience. I think one of the main benefits is knowing that you’re helping someone.
“FareShare have said that for every hour that you volunteer, that equates to around 72 meals that you’re helping to provide.
“That’s a huge thing knowing that you can make such a big difference even if you just volunteer for one hour a week.”
As well as enabling you to “give back” to your local community, volunteering at FareShare can equip you with lots of additional skills that you may not otherwise have had the chance to learn.
This is particularly beneficial for students, as the skills you learn as a FareShare volunteer can be applied to many different job roles and can ultimately make you more employable.
From communication and teamwork skills, to more practical, vocational skills, the learning opportunities are endless. Becca said:
“The skills you can gain as a volunteer at FareShare are really varied. The obvious one is that you gain experience working in a warehouse. You’re learning about health and safety, and food safety, which are both really important in an environment like this.
“There could also be social skills you pick up just by speaking to our various volunteers from all walks of life, mingling with them and seeing what they’re all about. You can gain knowledge just from some of our volunteers alone.
“It does depend on what you want to get out of it. We’re really flexible here, so if we’ve got a particular volunteer that’s interested in finding out a little bit more about a certain part of the business, let me know and we might be able to help.”
As well as assisting in the warehouse, there are a range of other roles on offer at FareShare to suit all different skill sets.
These roles include drivers and driver’s assistants who deliver the food to the charities, admin assistants who support the team in the office, and community champions who spread the word about FareShare in the community and recruit volunteers.
Without these volunteers, FareShare wouldn’t be able to continue with their amazing and vitally important work. Becca said:
“Volunteers at FareShare are really important. At the North East centre, we have around 30 volunteers, but ideally need 50-60 volunteers.
“We’re a really small team here and we could not get the food out to the charities without our volunteers. All our drivers and driver’s assistants are all volunteers. Our warehouse assistants are all volunteers.
“Without their support – whether it’s just an hour a week, or whether it’s three shifts a week – we really couldn’t function. We physically couldn’t get the food out to the people in the right time and tackle the problem with food waste.”
Before the day of volunteering, I was really excited because working in a warehouse is something that I had never experienced before. Having volunteered with charities that provide free meals in the past, I was also really interested to learn about how the food actually makes it from the supermarkets to the charities.
When I arrived at FareShare’s North East regional distribution centre in Westerhope, I was taken aback by the huge range of food products being sorted through. From boxes of cereal and jars of marmalade, to multi packs of yogurts and packets of rice, there was something of everything.
After having an induction to learn a bit more about FareShare and the warehouse assistant role, I was kitted up with some sturdy boots and a high-vis jacket and set to work unpacking hundreds of rice packets and loading them into smaller plastic crates.
Next, a Co-Op truck arrived to deliver their surplus food to the distribution centre, so I helped to unload the pallets of food off of the truck and into the warehouse ready for sorting.
After that, I added another thick coat on top of the one I was already wearing because it was time to head into the chiller. Here, I did some “picking”, which involved pulling together all of the items each charity had ordered and loading them up onto pallets ready to be distributed. It was still good fun despite the cold!
I finished off the day by having a quick sweep of the warehouse floor to ensure that everything was clean and there were no trip hazards.
Overall, I had a really great time volunteering at FareShare, and definitely see this as a valuable and worthwhile experience which opened my eyes to all the work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that charities across the UK can continue to provide free, delicious meals to those who need them.
I would definitely recommend this volunteering opportunity to students wanting to make a real difference to people’s lives by carrying out vital tasks, while also learning so many useful skills that employers are looking for.
How can I get involved?
If you would like to get involved with volunteering for this amazing cause, then simply head to the FareShare website and click “Get Involved”. There’s a short online form to fill out, which will be passed on to your regional centre. They’ll then contact you and take it from there!
If you don’t want to commit to volunteering on a regular basis, FareShare also have one-off events that you can get involved with, such as food collection drives at local supermarkets. All the information you need can be found on the FareShare website, and you can also follow FareShare on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get all the latest updates.
That’s it for this week’s blog post – I hope you enjoyed reading all about volunteering opportunities at FareShare!
See you next week!