Key partner Exeter Food Action: unlocking surplus in Exeter and East Devon

Since 2019, Exeter Food Action has been a key partner charity, and our very first partner in our expansion into Devon and Cornwall. Working together, we launched the first delivery service of FareShare South West food into the Exeter region. From small beginnings, our partnership became a stepping stone that enabled further expansion into Plymouth.

Who are Exeter Food Action?

Exeter Food Action (EFA) originally started out in 2011 as part of Devon and Cornwall Food Action (DCFA). They became an independent organisation in 2017. Their mission then, as now, was to rescue surplus food and redistribute it to those in need in the Exeter area. Connecting with local food suppliers, supermarkets and farms, they rescued everything from yellow-labelled supermarket foods, to vegetable boxes from farms.

However, as a small organisation with a small warehouse space, Exeter Food Action wasn’t able to handle large scale food. Nor did they have processes or logistics to manage large-scale distribution, relying instead on volunteers collecting on an honesty system. They had limited chiller space, restricting access to high value food items such as dairy and meat. Despite being a highly useful resource to local charities, they weren’t able to offer the regularity, variety, or longer life food that FareShare accesses.

In turn, FareShare South West did not have the deep understanding of local need, nor the connections to Exeter charities that EFA has. They know the needs of their community best, and have strong relationships with projects in Exeter and beyond. We needed a partner we could work with to increase food distribution infrastructure, while ensuring our food remained targeted to those most in need.

Working during the pandemic: 2020 and 2021

Working with RE:ACT and The British Red Cross, we launched an emergency food hub that delivered over 650 tonnes of food into Devon and Cornwall in 2020. Our long term service finally launched in October 2020.

Our original goal had been to launch a permanent weekly food service into Exeter by 2019. However, the pandemic made this impossible. Covid struck before we were able to secure logistics, vans or drivers to deliver to local charities each week. In the absence of this service, from August 2020 we worked with EFA to deliver emergency food into the region. 650 tonnes of food– enough for over 1.5 million meals- were distributed across Devon and Cornwall during the pandemic period. Through this emergency work, we established relationships with many of the partners we work with across the region today.

Post-pandemic: launching a long term service into Exeter

In October 2020, we launched our long term service into Exeter. EFA’s warehouse acts as a ‘hub’, where FareShare South West food can be delivered and stored. Exeter charities can now benefit from EFA’s free service as well as our membership model, unlocking surplus at every level. Thanks to our collaboration, we now send two chiller vans full of food to Exeter (that’s nearly two tonnes every week!) as well as topping them up with donations from our large scale suppliers. We fundraise to cover costs of Exeter drivers delivering FareShare food, as well as sharing the salary a local coordinator. Jon Curtis of EFA explains below why our partnership works so well:

What’s next for our partnership with Exeter Food Action?

While our new Plymouth warehouse will grow to support West Devon and Cornwall, our ongoing partnership with EFA will support more charities in East Devon. In 2022, we hope to offer frozen food for the first time, as well as increasing EFA’s chiller capacity, meaning they can redistribute even more high value surplus.

We are so proud to work with Exeter Food Action, and for their expertise, local knowledge and collaborative ethos. Working together, we have enabled food for millions of meals to be distributed across Devon and Cornwall. We look forward to many more years of working together.

Are you an Exeter charity wanting food? Find out more here.

Want to volunteer for FareShare? Click here.

Could you food company send your surplus to us? Contact us.

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