What’s it like to volunteer at FareShare South West?

Communications volunteer Sid Hayns-Worthington spills the beans on his first warehouse shift in Bristol.

Every day is a school day, so they say. And like my first day at school, I feel a tingle of nerves as I head to the Little Ann Street warehouse in Bristol.

Working as a freelancer in TV, I should confess this is my first time in a warehouse. I’m ready to try something completely new, stretch my desk-bound legs and roll up my sleeves. But I can’t shake off feeling like a fish out of water as I walk past industrial units and lorries to find the warehouse entrance.

After five minutes, the anxieties I’d walked in with are gone.

Friendly staff greet me in the shared kitchen, and volunteer coordinator Zephyr welcomes me and my fellow inductee Marie-Louise. By the time we’re suited and booted with steel-capped boots and high-vis jackets, we metamorphose into pickers and head into the warehouse, chock full of produce-laden pallets.

Zephyr walks us through the first order for the next day’s delivery. With a bit of music to get into the rhythm of things, we’re rummaging through dried goods to load onto crates in no time.

Next we don the thermals, and enter the chilly depths of the industrial fridge. We face mounds of celeriac. Swedes bigger than your head. An array of different vegan cheeses, which we were warned all basically look the same. All of it looks fresh and ready to go onto a plate. So how does it end up here?

Surplus food: where does it come from?

I ask why this food is here – for example. a pallet of perfectly delicious potatoes the size of a garden shed. It could be a seasonal bumper crop, a supply chain order, dating or labelling issue, I’m told.

FareShare South West’s fast turnaround of produce means it can process the food immediately.

Everything that comes in the doors on Monday is usually shared with members – charities, school breakfast clubs, community kitchens and larders – by the weekend.

Soon we and Zephyr have completed our first small order together, ready to go to a local food charity. We scoot the trolley into the fridge ready for the drivers the next day, and that’s it.

Our duties complete, we waited for our next order to come through, which we took as an opportunity to have a cuppa in the shared kitchen.

There was a diversity of young and old among the volunteers. Everyone mucked in the same, and everyone got on as a team.

Left to our own devices Marie-Louise and I got cracking with our first solo picking order together for a food hub in Keynsham. In no time at all another 100 kilos of food – including plenty of giant swedes – was ready to go for the next day.

Our shift was over and the afternoon crew arrived to take over. First day complete. I hope to be back for more soon!

Volunteers at FareShare South West in a food delivery van.

Volunteer with FareShare South West

Pick and pack food, drive a van or help with navigation, or get stuck into an admin role – all with lots of support and friendly faces.

Find out more about volunteering in Bristol and Plymouth

A person in hi-via holding a cauliflower.

FareShare South West: our impact

Wonder what we do and why? Read our latest impact report to find out how we tackle food waste and fight hunger – and how you could be part of it all.

Last year we delivered food for 3.96 million meals

Affordable food in rural Devon

Find out how Holsworthy Food Hub is empowering its volunteers and supporting people who feel isolated as well as offering affordable nutritious food.

“Coming here is like coming to see my friends”

Over 3 million tonnes of the food that goes to waste each year is still edible

That’s enough for seven billion meals

Find out more about what we do