A North East distribution charity which delivers surplus food items to volunteer groups, community projects and other local charities, is calling on the region’s supermarkets, food chains and producers to offer up more of their excess, unwanted stock in the run up to Christmas.

Fareshare North East is urgently asking major retailers and suppliers for extra, good quality, in-date items to be delivered to their Newcastle warehouse over the next few weeks so that they can ensure the groups and support services they serve, with users most reliant on them for meals, are kept well stocked over the festive period.

The plea comes on the back of the charity navigating the knock-on effects of the country’s recent food and driver shortages, and rising transportation costs, that have had a severe impact on how major food retailers operate.

It has meant that despite Fareshare having enough volunteer drivers and vehicles locally to deliver to over 200 projects weekly, some supermarkets and food chains are unfortunately starting to offer less food, less often, and therefore certain stocks are diminishing.

Joe Bilclough, food supply coordinator at Fareshare North East’s Stamfordham Road HQ and warehouse in Newcastle, explained, “We’re in the middle of an unfortunate situation feeling the knock-on effects of a much larger, UK-wide problem, and whilst it is beginning to recede somewhat in the public domain, we’re now seeing less food being offered to ourselves by the retailers due to their own reduced supply.

“We deliver crucial food items to our member charities and smaller venues that are often the lifeline of their communities, enabling any unwanted stock to be put to good use. This is from Northumberland right the way down to Teesside, therefore we’re making an urgent plea now for more, longer-life items to be received in the weeks prior to Christmas to ensure none of them struggle to support and feed their users.

“This could be lunch clubs for older people who come together to eat, socialise and tackle isolation, food banks and projects that deliver free meals to alleviate poverty, projects that provide shelter from abuse, children’s breakfast clubs or homeless charities providing much needed food to people most vulnerable. The range is huge and varied, but all are vitally important on a grass roots level and at this time of year, they need as much as we can provide.

“Furthermore, as a local charity operating independently, we ourselves rely on the goodwill of 100 plus volunteers and donations like the money recently received from The Bernicia Foundation. This goes a long way to support our running costs and is essential given demand for our services is rapidly increasing, but unfortunately, the money we receive from external funding bodies is reducing.

“Without it, we would have struggled to deliver over 1.5million kg of unwanted food since the start of the year. This equates to over 3.5million meals serving approximately 33,000 people. Our community work is crucial, so if any organisations can offer us more food or indeed support in any way in the run up to Christmas, the benefits would be even more far-reaching.”

Fareshare North East was recently given £9,000 by The Bernicia Foundation from its latest round of funding. The charitable trust, set up by Bernicia Housing Association, has so far allocated £577,000 to local charities, community initiatives, volunteer groups and individuals, as well as £200,000 to local authorities’ Emergency Covid Fund, over the last two years.

The money will enable Fareshare North East to continue delivering food to projects like St Chads community project in Gateshead and Junction 7 in County Durham. St Chads supports families in the Bensham area with childcare support, whilst the Newton Aycliffe-based crisis intervention scheme delivers much-needed food parcels, emergency items, pack lunches to young children when off school, as well as Christmas dinners for 150 people and 50 festive gift hampers.

Joe added, “These are great examples of a small, community-driven projects in Gateshead and County Durham which benefit from Fareshare North East on a weekly basis. Many local people are given regular meals from the food we provide, and without projects like this, a lot of residents in Bensham and Newton Aycliffe could go short.

“To have food and be fed is the most basic of human needs, and because a lot of smaller organisations close over the festive period, we must ensure they have enough beforehand to see people through. During the pandemic, food donations to these groups from other sources were at a high, but as we start to get back to normal life, this too has reduced so they are more reliant than ever on us.”

Kevin Haddrick of The Bernicia Foundation, commented, “Fareshare North East is one of many organisations we come across who are providing the most incredible support on a local level, making a real positive impact to people and their communities. Without their services or volunteers, many other smaller projects would also suffer in terms of the support they provide their own users, and so we are absolutely delighted to be able to donate to this cause.

“The festive period is a difficult time for many charities as demand can be much higher. I would therefore echo Joe’s call and encourage any large retailer or food producing company in a position to offer Fareshare North East any unwanted stock, to do so in the weeks ahead.”

Food producers and retailers able to help are asked to contact Fareshare North East’s Newcastle warehouse on 0191 447 6226 or email contact@fareshare-northeast.org.uk