“The surplus food helps people financially, but just as importantly engenders community spirit.”
Martin Wilson School is part of a network of 11 Foodshares supported by Shrewsbury Food Hub, where everyone is welcome to collect a few bags of food on a ‘Pay As You Feel’ basis, to stop food waste and help stretch their budget.
For a number of years, the Hub had been supporting Martin Wilson School with surplus food to help vulnerable families in the school community. During the pandemic we worked with them to open a Foodshare to help even more. A Foodshare is a welcoming community space where anyone can collect a few bags of good food that would otherwise have gone to waste and help stretch people’s budgets.
A weekly Foodshare run on a ‘pay-as-you-feel’ basis was set up in summer 2020. The Sunday Foodshare continues to receive weekly deliveries of surplus good food from the Food Hub and is well attended.
Joanna said: “The surplus food helps people financially, but just as importantly engenders community spirit.
Volunteers talk to visitors about ways of preparing foods, and there is a lot of chat in the queues for the tables. The food is offered in the spirit of preventing food waste which changes the tone of the Foodshare from getting something for nothing to one of helping to reduce waste. There is a great atmosphere.”
Unpredictable but valuable food
All of the Foodshares distribute ambient food that is safe at room temperature including fruit, veg, bread, cakes and buns, eggs and store cupboard food. This food is collected from 20 stores and other suppliers every day, so it’s completely unpredictable. One week there might be mainly bread and cabbages, the next mangoes and potatoes. Some Foodshares have implemented extra food safety practices so that they can share frozen and chilled food including yoghurts, milk, butter, meat, fish, eggs, and ready meals. Martin Wilson has been running a community freezer since winter 2020 and a fridge since summer 2022.
Joanna added: “Chilled food offers people a chance to give their families a treat such as yogurts and desserts. Everyone uses milk and feels the impact of price rises on basics. Although not everyone has access to freezer space, frozen food that can form the basis of a meal and ready meals are popular. Being able to offer chilled surplus food allows a more varied range of foods that save people more money.”
Between 40-60 people come along to the Foodshare every week with each person supporting two to three family members. Joanna estimates that a person using the Foodshare saves in the region of a £10 shop in a supermarket.
“The Foodshare helps the budget and it’s social.”
As well as providing a practical response to the financial pressure than many families find themselves, together we have saved more good food from going to waste, preventing carbon emissions and protecting the environment.
What Martin Wilson’s Foodshare visitors say:
“During lockdown it was the only place we could socialise and the only place I could see my sister. I always collect bread and like to try different vegetables and fruit.”
“I come because I hate waste, it’s very social and helps the budget, especially with the cost of living at the moment. There’s a variety of stuff, not just the basics and it introduces me to new foods. I’d never had celeriac or fennel before.”
“I live by myself and can survive on food from here for four days before I need to go shopping again.”
“I come to help stop waste, I come on a Sunday then plan my meals around what we get and I do my big shopping later. It makes me more experimental in my cooking.”
“We’d never had aubergines before but we got some last week. We got some potatoes as well and found a recipe for vegetable moussaka, it was delicious.”
“I’m a vegan and I come to help keep healthy by getting lots of different fruit and vegetables. There’s been lots of really good vegan frozen stuff in the last few months. I don’t have a freezer so I put it in my daughter’s freezer.”