Nurseries flock to food share scheme

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A growing number of nurseries are signing up to receive free surplus food under a scheme to fight hunger and waste in the UK.

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YMCA Maidstone Tovil Pre-school uses Fare Share

A total of 200 nurseries are currently using the FareShare FoodCloud scheme, through which charities and community groups that use food to support people can collect surplus good-quality food from participating Tesco or Waitrose stores for free. Charities using the scheme estimate they save around £500 a year.

According to the organisation that runs FareShare FoodCloud, the number of nurseries signing up is growing by the day.

It comes as nurseries and pre-schools, particularly those operating as charities, struggle to survive financially due to stagnant or falling funding rates and rising costs, including the introduction of auto-enrolment pensions, the living wage and an increase to food prices.

Charities and community groups can also pay to become a FareShare member and receive regular orders of food from 20 regional centres across the country. According to the organisation that runs it, on average this membership scheme saves charities £7,900 a year.

Posting on the Champagne Nurseries, Lemonade Funding Facebook group, Sharon Everett, manager of Merryfields Playschool in Norfolk, said the setting uses FareShare FoodCloud and it receives donations of mainly bread.

Another poster, Dawn Sharpe, said her setting mainly uses the food it receives through the programme for children’s snacks. Any leftover food is offered to parents to take home, which she said is really appreciated.

Also commenting on the page, Sarah Hawkins said, ‘Using the scheme stops food waste, enables us to purchase snacks for a fraction of the cost and to supply food to our families. I feel proud that we are providing a service that supports our community.’

Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of FareShare, said, ‘The way FareShare FoodCloud works is very simple. We match charities and community groups up to a local supermarket and arrange a regular day for them to collect surplus food from the store to supplement their existing food supplies. On their collection day, the charity will get a text from the supermarket, saying what food is available. The food is all good quality, in date and perfectly safe to eat, and we make sure that the charity never feels pressured into taking more food than they need.

‘So far the scheme has been a huge success, with almost 5,000 charities across the UK signed up. Our charities are telling us that they save around £500 a year, with many of them picking up food more than once a week. This can amount to a significant cost saving, particularly for smaller charities where margins are tight.’

YMCA Maidstone Tovil Pre-school

Vanessa Burns, manager of YMCA Maidstone Tovil Pre-School, says FoodShare FoodCloud has saved it money, as well as changed the way parents and children think about recycling and the environment. The setting signed up to the scheme in April.

She explains, ‘It’s great as it boosts the variety of food we serve to the children, helps with costs and is good for the environment.

‘I pick up food twice a week from my local Tesco, who text me the night before.

‘Today we received three boxes, which included huge amounts of flowers that the children have used for messy play, role play, flower arranging, and to decorate the community centre in which we are based. We also received a variety of loaves of bread, bananas, plums and cherries – which we never normally buy as they are expensive.

‘For some of the children, it was the first time they had tried cherries. Tomorrow we are going to bake banana bread using the leftover bananas.

‘Whatever we don’t use we put on display for families and the community to take home. We are in a low-income council area, with lots of deprived families, many of whom have English as an additional language.’

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