Mobile larder launched in Swanage to combat cost of living crisis

A new mobile pantry has rolled into Swanage to help tackle the growing issue of food insecurity in the town and there are hopes to double its distribution network in the months ahead.

The country’s newest FareShare Mobile Larder was launched on Monday 9th January 2023, based out of St Mark’s School and will serve hundreds of families in Swanage, Corfe Castle and Langton Matravers who are being increasingly squeezed by the cost of living.


St Mark’s School in Swanage is the Monday morning base for the mobile larder

Helps reduce the cost of food shopping

The mobile larder is a membership scheme which helps people make their money go further by reducing food shopping bills.

With the assistance of several primary schools and The Swanage School, fresh fruit and vegetables, tinned meats, fish, desserts, pasta, rice, tea and coffee will be distributed to members of the mobile community larder for a fraction of the supermarket price.

Cost of membership is between £2.50 a week for single person households up to £5 a week for homes of four or more people, which provides between eight and 20 products a week with an estimated value of £10 to £15, always including fresh fruit and vegetables. This means that people can make savings up to 60 to 70 percent of the food’s cost

As dairy products and fresh meat can also be handed out, free reusable chiller bags are also given out with a first collection, along with a fridge thermometer to ensure that food safety is upheld.

Every Monday morning from 9.30 am to 11 am, one of the FareShare vans will arrive at St Mark’s School, Swanage, with crates of food donated by all the major supermarkets as well as local farmers who donate surplus vegetables to the charity, rather than plough them back into their fields.

At the launch, left to right: Peter Jacobs, Ruth Jordan, Councillor Avril Harris, Helen Sumbler, Councillor Nicola Rogers and Chris Bradey

Need for such a scheme

Chair of Food For Thought Purbeck, Chris Bradey, praised the efforts of the whole community in coming together to set up the scheme and said:

“The mobile larder scheme has been achieved in Swanage thanks to a whole range of organisations and interested groups coming together, across political parties and with existing food banks.

“We contacted FareShare, a national charity which tackles food waste and fights hunger, and communicated with local primary schools to get details of families who may be food insecure.

“There is no doubt about the need for a mobile pantry scheme and the food bank in Swanage – Dorset Council’s own research shows a considerable degree of food insecurity, perhaps as many as 275 children in vulnerable families.

“The cost of living crisis is not making things any easier, but there are things that the community can do to help if we all come together – and it has been absolutely fantastic how Swanage has responded to this appeal.”

Fruit and vegetables from local farmers are donated when they are overproduced

Two million tonnes of groceries wasted each year

FareShare, the UK’s largest charity fighting hunger and food waste, renewed its fundraising appeal in 2022 to help get good-to-eat surplus food from supermarkets and farmers to people most impacted by the cost of living crisis.

It is estimated that more than two million tonnes of good to eat food is wasted every year nationally, the equivalent of 1.3 billion meals.

This comes at a time when growing numbers of families and food charities are seeing a spike in food and energy bills, along with mental health issues associated with the crisis.

Regional FareShare manager Claire Martin (right) with volunteer manager Daniel Usher-Barrass (left)

Farmers donate any overproduced food

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

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

“It has been ideal to work with families through schools in the area and to coordinate our work with the food and drink industry to distribute food which has been mislabelled, over produced, are discontinued lines or food on its best before end date – which is about quality, not safety.

“All of the major supermarkets 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.

“We can redistribute up to 20 tonnes of food a week in our area – Southern Central, based out of Southampton – and support up to one million people a week. Swanage St Mark’s has become our 21st larder and we look forward to seeing it grow.”


Volunteers to help distribute produce to the needy are always welcome

Call for volunteers to step up to help

It is hoped that as the service continues, word of mouth will spread and families will be more relaxed about joining the ‘laidback and informal’ scheme and that a second FareShare van will be added to the Swanage scheme.

The scheme, which is supported by Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust and Swanage Town Council, welcomes more volunteer drivers and helpers to come forward to help grow the scheme.

Chris Bradey added:

“We have started out with 50 boxes of food on the van, but we hope to have another running van in the near future.

“The response has been fantastic across the community, especially from the schools, and we are delighted to be able to help.”

The Swanage Mobile Larder will become a regular visitor to the town in future

Further information:

  • Find out how to sign up for membership, volunteer to help, or donate food to the FareShare Mobile Larder scheme on its national website

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