Feed a family: Volunteers on a mission to stop our food waste

Meet the people who stop 100 tonnes of food going to waste each month.

Manager Clare Watt with Food Share Project founder, Lea Beven
Manager Clare Watt with Food Share Project founder, Lea Beven

Telford's pioneering Food Share Project not only stops food going to waste in the area each day, but also supports local people with its own food bank.

The staff and volunteers at Telford Food Share Project work incredibly hard to arrange pick ups of donations, support food bank users, and raise money for the project by selling food in the shop to prevent it going to waste.

The scheme was the brainchild of Lea Beven, who founded the project and took on board staff and volunteers to help reduce food waste in Telford.

Manager Clare Watt with Food Share Project founder, Lea Beven

With more than 85 members of staff, Lea and her team operate a supermarket selling food at reduced prices from their base on Rampart way, Telford.

However, at the back of the store, they also run their own food bank which is supported by the money raised from the supermarket.

Many of the staff either started off as shoppers or food bank users, and then got involved by volunteering. They now said it feels like their own little family and they love coming in each day.

Lea Beven, founder, said many members of the team are neuro diverse, which simply means someone who thinks differently from the way the majority (referred to as neurotypical) expects.

"It's really amazing what we have managed to do by building a team of neuro diverse people who all compliment each other," Lea said.

Telford's Food Share project. One of the managers: Clare Watt from Broseley
Luke Fellows-Weir from Ironbridge volunteers at the Telford Food Share Project

"We listen to people and what they have done before, their skills, their passions and really hear them and sense their likes and dislikes. So we can nurture them in the best possible position here."

With large rent and electricity bills, Lea is encouraging people to become 'waste-warriors' and help support the shop and the food bank by shopping while reducing waste.

From pick up drivers to people unpacking crates, and fundraising managers to people who run the show like Lea, a lot of work goes into the day to day operations.

Clare Watt, from Broseley, has recently become a manager after volunteering while she was a self-employed beautician during Covid when she lost a lot of income.

She explained the day to day operations: "We are a food waste project so companies like Muller ring up saying they have x-amount of yoghurts or trifles and they give them out to us to sell.

Manager Clare Watt with Food Share Project founder, Lea Beven
Phil Wilson from Dawley (Driver) and Sean Greenslade from Wrockwardine (Loads the vans up)

"Other times they may give us items that we can give away free of charge as an incentive to shoppers. Other times companies will give us donations which we then use to support the food bank.

"Companies like Greggs, Fairshare, Bookers and Blakemores all donate crates of items or we buy things from them, and we also get donations from the local supermarkets.

"Farmers and people with animals come and collect our rotten veg. So we really are sharing everything and letting nothing go to waste.

"A lot of us volunteers started in one way or another maybe using the foodbank or using the shop and have gotten involved that way."

Phil Wilson, from Dawley, is a driver for the project and often dubbed 'fabulous Phil' for his early starts and hard work.

He has been part of the project for two years and started volunteering when he himself was in need.

Telford Food Share project's driver, Phil Wilson from Dawley
Volunteer, Sean Greenslade from Wrockwardine, at the Telford Food Share Project

"I was actually queuing up one time for food – I was still in work but it was not a well paid job so I needed help," he said.

"So it all started when I saw Lea packing up by herself and asked her if she needed help.

"Then I started picking up deliveries from Greggs four times a week. It's just a great little family here."

When Phil picks up deliveries, they are unpacked by teams of volunteers like Sean Greenslade, from Wrockwardine, and Luke Fellows-Weir, from Ironbridge.

Sean said: "I have volunteered here around a year and just love it. I wanted to find a reason to get out the house each day and do something for myself.

"From the first day I felt so welcomed and just wanted to come back for more. It's a great vibe here. We have all become like a family.

"I do a bit of everything in my role, from stocking shelves, unpacking deliveries and cleaning up the place."

Chelsea May, from Donnington, only started her role as fundraising manager around three weeks ago, but said she is already enjoying it.

Chelsea May from Donnington, Fundraising Manager

"I only started when I had some free time and wanted to get out the house and do something," she explained.

"I was talking to Lea within my first two hours here and she said I have got a job for you and offered me the fundraising manager role.

"It was amazing because I wasn't feeling great and she immediately just changed everything. We don't get any help here in terms of funding as we are a Community Interest Company not a charity so we are really community based.

"I think a lot of people don't know about us or think we are just for low income families or people on benefits but it's not. The more people we get in the better.

"When people with money come in and buy the products – like a normal supermarket – it means we can use the money to support the food bank."

To keep up to date, visit www.facebook.com/foodshareproject/.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News