Food charity FareShare South West expands to cope with rising demand and cost of living crisis

  • Watch Max Walsh's report for ITV News West Country.

When the pandemic struck, FareShare South West stepped up its operation to provide an extra five million meals to help the rising number of people going hungry.

But now, as the cost of living crisis deepens, it faces yet another challenge to meet demand.

The charity has been going for more than 25 years and helps to redistribute surplus food which never makes it onto supermarket shelves but is in perfectly good condition.

The main warehouse where the food is stored is in St Jude's in Bristol. It's from here the operation is managed by a small team of staff and volunteers.

The FareShare warehouse in Bristol

By 7am the shutters are up, the warehouse floor is being cleared for truckloads of deliveries and around five vans are loaded up with crates to be sent out to foodbanks and other organisations across the region.

Volunteers on the morning shift are briefed as they arrive. They say they are now helping more people than ever before.

Victoria said: "It has rapidly expanded during lockdown and it's never gone back to pre-covid levels of demand."

Adam said: "Projects are taking more food with more families in need. There is no doubt about that."

Volunteers pair up and drive vans across the region, delivering to nearly 300 different projects a week. A new warehouse is due to open in Plymouth in the coming months as FareShare South West continues to expand its operation.

One of the charities which receives FareShare food is Bread of Life in Exeter. It cooks hot nutritious meals for the homeless and vulnerable.

Marie-Claire Hunt, from Bread of Life, said: "I know the guys are grateful. They express that and they thank us. It helps us appreciate that they really do need it."

In the Bristol warehouse, Sophie Pike is responsible for managing the deliveries and stocks.

It can be a juggling and she says it has got more challenging as FareShare has expanded.

Sophie Pike, warehouse manager, said: "Stock checks take longer, the amount of volunteers we need in the day has dramatically increased. We've bought extra vehicles, we're doing extra runs. It's scaled up very fast."

The work at the warehouse goes on well into the night so they can start again first thing tomorrow morning.