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Ashford-based FareShare team up with Tesco to encourage shoppers to donate food for Christmas

By Nicola Everett

Think of Christmas and two things probably spring to mind, presents and food.

But with thousands of families in Kent struggling to put a meal on the table, a charity is aiming to make sure everyone has enough to eat over the festive season.

Ashford-based FareShare has teamed up with Tesco to encourage shoppers to donate things like pasta, rice, tins and tea.

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FareShare are collecting donations of food in Tesco stores (5669078)
FareShare are collecting donations of food in Tesco stores (5669078)

The charity, which is the largest of its kind in the UK, worked with over 100 charities and community groups in Kent last year.

They provided enough food for more than half a million meals and helped around 12,200 people in the county every week.

Christie Garratt from the organisation said what they offer is vital: "Food is often a gateway to many other services.

"For example, at a children and family community centre, if they can come in and access a free meal that's one less meal that family has to worry about providing but they can also access other services like debt counselling and that sort of thing.

"We know that Christmas can be a real time of struggle for a lot of families, there's extra pressure around this time it's also a much colder time of year as well so we need the hearty ingredients to make sure people are well fed."

Figures released earlier this month revealed nearly 10,000 people in Kent are now relying on foodbanks.

The Trussell Trust handed out 9,025 three day emergency supplies in the county between April 1 and September 30 this year, an increase of 2.74% on the same period last year, when 8,784 people in crisis were helped by the charity.

They currently operate eight foodbanks in Kent in Gravesend, Swanley, Medway, Sittingbourne, Faversham, Deal, Dover and Folkestone.

While FareShare don't expect to be helping an increased number of people this year, they say demand will go up.

Christie added: "Homeless hostels will increase their level of service, there'll be soup kitchens ringing on Christmas Day, that sort of thing, so we know that there's a demand for more food but not necessarily to feed more people.

"It doesn't just have to help the homeless, it could be elderly lunch clubs where elderly people might not have families to see on Christmas Day, so these charities will provide Christmas lunches and that sort of thing.

"If we can provide the ingredients, that's one less thing for the charity to worry about."

FareShare have recruited volunteers to help collect food from people shopping at Tesco stores across the county with the supermarket then matching all donations with a cash donation.

They want long life food and any excess will continue to help people into the new year.

The Tesco Food Collection runs from today until Saturday December 1.

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