Food for thought as Swanage opens second mobile larder

A second community larder has been set up in Swanage to tackle the dual issues of a war on food waste and the cost of living crisis.

Anyone can become a FareShare member and, for a small weekly cost, can collect fresh and chilled supermarket food close to its sell by date, worth at least three times as much.

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Fresh produce on its sell by date is still perfectly good to eat

Hoping to help at least 50 customers a week

After the success of a FareShare scheme operating out of St Mark’s CE School in Swanage every Monday morning, Food For Thought Purbeck realised there was also a need to help adults and families closer to the centre of the town with their weekly food bill.

The second mobile larder was launched at the Children’s Centre on Chapel Lane on Wednesday 7th June, 2023, and it will now be there every Wednesday between 9.30 am and 10.30 am throughout the year.

Food For Thought Purbeck wants to attract at least 50 customers a week to secure a continued supply of good quality supermarket food from FareShare – the goods typically come from Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Asda.

Anyone can become a member of FareShare, with only proof of ID and address required as there is no means testing, nor a need to be in receipt of benefits. As it’s just launched, organisers say residents can just turn up on a Wednesday morning with their ID to join the scheme.

Once membership has been processed, customers pay £2.50 as a single person, £3.50 for a two person household or £5 for a family, and food worth at least three times as much will be selected for them.

Unpacking the produce gets under way at Swanage Children’s Centre

One in five families have to skip a meal

On the launch day, produce brought to Chapel Lane included fresh apples, grapes, potatoes, tomatoes and courgettes, bread, oat milk, salad vegetables and chilled ready meals.

Food varies from week to week and can also include tinned meats, fish and desserts, pasta, rice, tea, coffee, dairy produce and even fresh meat, all at a saving of around 60 to 70 percent of shelf cost. Free reusable chiller bags are also supplied.

With recent national statistics showing that one in five families have to skip a meal once a week because they can’t make ends meet, and with 1.53 million people now using food banks – up from 26,000 in 2009 – organisers say there is a real need for these schemes.

But equally, tackling food waste is an important aim of the scheme – in 2021 UK supermarkets threw away the equivalent of 190 million meals that could have been given to hungry families, just because they had reached their sell by date.

At that point, the supermarkets were donating less than 10 percent of their surplus food to food banks or larder projects, but a huge public and media outcry when these figures were revealed has begun to swing the pendulum.

FareShare now brings fresh, chilled and end of shelf life goods to Swanage twice a week with the opening of the second mobile larder and more than 100 customers are expected to benefit from the scheme.

Chair of Food For Thought Purbeck Chris Bradey with a typical food package

Food price inflation has hit 17 percent

Chair of Food For Thought Purbeck, Chris Bradey, said:

“FareShare has set up a number of new food larders across Dorset – for instance, there’s now one in Sherborne which everyone thinks is a really prosperous town, but their numbers are expanding because there is a real need for them.

“I think Chapel Lane will be equally as important and just as well used as the scheme at St Mark’s School, and is more convenient for residents in Durlston or central Swanage to reach.

“This is just one initiative reflecting the national challenge of food insecure families and we can see that in the exponential increase in the number of food banks.

“Recent inflation rates have been very challenging, food price inflation has reached 17 percent which, if you are on a low income, is a high proportion of the family budget without taking into account increases in rent, electricity, fuel and so on.

“Chris Moreton, the deputy town mayor, has acknowledged this is a really important thing for Swanage and it is heartening to know how much support there is for us.”

Tackling the war on food waste also relieves pressure on household budgets

“We want to save food waste”

Food For Thought Purbeck secretary Debby Monkhouse added:

“Given the housing costs in Purbeck, and rises in fuel and food prices, we expect this food to make a real difference to our community.

“But it is important we get full take up of 50-plus people within a few weeks to keep this low cost food for our community and to save food waste – if people don’t have access to a car, or can’t get to the larder when it’s open, we can offer some deliveries.

“And we always need help to administer the scheme, so if anyone would like to volunteer on the larder once or twice a month they will be warmly welcomed!”

The FareShare mobile larder van is now a twice weekly visitor to Swanage

Farmers donate their over produced crops

FareShare, the UK’s largest charity fighting hunger and food waste, has renewed its fundraising appeal to help get good-to-eat surplus food from supermarkets and farmers to people most impacted by the cost of living crisis.

Claire Martin, regional manager of FareShare for the area which includes Swanage, said:

“Despite a huge increase in the work that we do, more than three million tonnes of food wasted across the food industry each year is still perfectly good to eat when it’s discarded.

“That wasted food is enough for an estimated seven billion meals and should be helping frontline organisations support their communities, rather than going to waste.

“Meanwhile 13 million people in the UK, including four million children, struggle to get enough to eat, numbers which have soared as a result of the cost of living crisis. There are more people in food insecurity now than there were at the height of the pandemic.

“No good food should ever go to waste, but when you live in rural areas there are not many services available to families to access it.

“All of the major supermarkets now work with us, as do many farmers who would rather donate food to us if it is overproduced or too small rather than ploughing it back into the fields – but there is still so much more to be done.”

Further information

  • Find out how to join, or help, the FareShare Mobile Larder scheme. Alternatively, just turn up with ID between 9.30 am and 10.30 am on Wednesdays at the Chapel Lane Children’s Centre off the High Street

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