Shula Granville, Fareshare and Rob Bowers, B&G Nurseries

FareShare has redistributed the equivalent of a quarter of a billion meals throughout the Covid pandemic, the food redistribution charity has announced.

FareShare takes delivery of surplus good-to-eat food, which is unsold or unwanted by the food industry, sorts it in one of its 30 regional warehouses, and passes it onto a network of nearly 10,500 charities and charity groups.These organisations then turn this nutritious food into meals for vulnerable families and individuals.

Between March 23,2020, when national lockdown measures were first announced by the UK government, and 24 February 2022, when legal restrictions relating to Covid-19 ended, FareShare provided 105,000 tonnes of food to people going hungry across the UK. That’s the equivalent of 250 million meals.

This good-to-eat surplus food came from across the food industry as suppliers and retailers faced the uncertainty of foodservice shutdowns, regional lockdowns, changing customer habits and challenging supply chains.

It was the support of Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford at the start of the first lockdown, over FareShare’s campaign to highlight the plight of children dependent on free school meals, that helped catapult the charity into the national limelight.

FareShare CEO Lindsay Boswell said:“A quarter of a billion meals is testament to the incredible hard work of every single one of FareShare’s volunteers, members of staff,food partners,donors, business partners and all our supporters, during what was an incredibly challenging time for everyone.

“This milestone was achieved in partnership with the UK voluntary sector,and support from the food industry, asl well as the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments. The charities and community groups who receive our food kept their vital community work on the Covid frontline going, despite facing considerable difficulties and health risks.”

He added that despite the end of Covid restrictions, the demand for FareShare’s food remains as high as during the pandemic, with demand exceeding supply.

Rises in the cost of living are thought to be one of the main factors in the continuing high demand for surplus food. Seven million people (including two million children) are said to be in food poverty in the UK. But despite that, two million tonnes of good-to-eat surplus food is wasted across the food industry each year.

FareShare is currently surveying its network of more than 10,500 charities and community groups about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and will be releasing the findings later this month.