Published: 06:00, 11 December 2020
| Updated: 16:45, 11 December 2020
A food charity in Ashford is bracing for a surge in demand in the run up to the festive period, as an increasing number of families continue to struggle from the economic effects of Covid-19.
Fareshare Kent, a food redistribution charity, supplies surplus food to 108 charities across the county, to places like food banks, school breakfast clubs and homeless shelters.
Emma White at Fareshare says demand has soared this year
Volunteers and staff at the warehouse on Foster Road, Ashford business park, have been working hard to keep a steady flow of food going to those most in need throughout the pandemic.
But with an unprecedented level of demand from food charities, the organisation is concerned need is only going to continue rising.
Fareshare provided the equivalent of 81,739 meals per week to charities and community groups in December 2019.
But in October 2020 that number increased by 112% to 171,432 meals per week.
Emma White, warehouse manager at the Ashford premises, said the surge of demand is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
The 36-year-old said: "For us at Fareshare our new normal is sending out double the amount of food we ever have done, and I do not think that will dip.
"It's a long road to recovery, I don't see this increasing in need ending any time soon - a third of the charities that we do send the food to have said that they wouldn't be able to feed people without the food we're supplying them with."
At the peak of the crisis the organisation was providing the equivalent of 309,000 meals to people in need every week.
Since the pandemic hit a further 33 charities signed up to Fareshare's service.
Emma said: "A lot of those are pop-up projects where people in the community have seen the need and want to do something about it, so I think that there is that real sense of pulling together and people wanting to be involved and wanting to support that where they live."
One cause of the soaring number of people needing support from food charities is job losses.
Figures from this week show more than 68,000 people across the county are claiming unemployment benefits, after the number skyrocketed in March as the first national lockdown began.
Emma said: "A lot of people have lost their jobs, have come to the end of their income through the pandemic.
"If you look back a few years you'd say people who use food banks were people who were perhaps homeless, in debt or so forth.
"A lot of people have lost their jobs, have come to the end of their income through the pandemic..."
"However there are now a lot of people who are actually employed who use food banks and access that surplus food, and this is because their wages don't cover the increase in living costs."
In order to support Fareshare's soaring demand, John Lewis and Waitrose have launched their 'Give a Little Love' campaign, which aims to raise £4m for both Fareshare and Home-Start UK.
Customer donations will be match funded by the organisation, up to the value of £2m.
Fareshare are also urging the government to put more procedures into place to stop surplus food across the UK from being wasted.
Ian Townsend-Blazier, Business Development Manager at FareShare Kent, said: "Whilst we know that surplus food isn't and shouldn’t be a silver bullet answer to food poverty, what you should know is that whilst 8 million UK citizens go hungry every year, food equivalent to at least 1.3bn meals is thrown away before it even gets to homes or schools.
"That food could provide the equivalent of 162 meals per year to all eight million people currently trapped in food insecurity.
"We want government action to stop this perfectly good food from going to waste, but until then we are calling on the public for financial donations which will help us keep the wheels turning in the face of continued soaring demand this Christmas."