Volunteering with surplus food opens up new opportunities

Volunteering for members of the Surplus Food Network can have many benefits. You can get access to training and skills development, real ‘on the job’ experience, meet like-minded people, help reduce our impact on the environment and support people that need it most. Find out about these benefits below, and how you can get involved.

gleaning network group of volunteersThe Surplus Food Network is a partnership between Real Junk Food Project, Fareshare Sussex, the Gleaning Network, Sussex Homeless Support, UKHarvest, the Food Partnership and the Food Waste Collective.

Between us we have more than 500 volunteers who do lots of different things; driving to pick up surplus or deliver it to projects, sorting food, cooking and serving meals or picking produce at a farm.  Some people help out in a more organisational capacity, undertaking research or helping with social media.

We recently threw a party for all the amazing volunteers from the Surplus Food Network to say thank you for all their hard work.  The evening was fab, with DJ Andy and a live band called ‘Loop the Moon’ (who volunteer for Fareshare Sussex) providing us with some excellent tunes.  Delicious food was cooked by volunteers with Real Junk Food Project (all surplus food obviously!) and we heard some great stories about what volunteering has meant to the people involved.

Why not sign up to volunteer with us as part of ‘Stop Food Waste Day‘ this Wednesday 24th April?  Find out more about volunteering with the Surplus Food Network.

Keiran’s story

Volunteered at Fareshare“I started volunteering whilst at William Collier to give me a routine and get out of the house. I volunteered on the coffee bar and sorting out Pret a Manger. Then I started doing the breakfast bar for other residents on Sundays too. It was cooking and I love cooking. I was doing Big Fig at the same time – Big Fig is a catering course. Then I started volunteering at FareShare as well. I wanted to start doing something to keep me busy.

On the first day I was there I got to go out on deliveries and see loads of projects – children’s centres, foodbanks, day centres. It was nice to see the people who were receiving the food. That was a year ago, in December 2017.

Then I got a part time job at Hop 50. Hop 50 is a café for over 50s and vulnerable adults. On Sundays I help out serving the roasts and clearing up. I chat to the people as well. Some people are lonely and don’t see anyone else all week. I always chat to them. I know what it’s like not seeing or talking to someone for ages. Having a chat makes them feel better. I don’t like to see people sitting on their own.

Now I’ve got a job at FareShare too! I went for the job because I was volunteering, and I kept seeing it advertised. I didn’t go for it for a while. I thought there would be another opportunity further down the line that I’d go for instead.

But then one day I realised I was trusted with lots of things at FareShare, and I was being given more and more responsibility and big tasks that some of the other volunteers couldn’t do. The volunteer coordinator (Maddie) asked if new volunteers could shadow me. I did lots of things like that. I then said to my mate that I was seriously thinking about the job, and he said that if I enjoy it and I can do it then I should go for it.

I got the job! I had to have an interview with the warehouse manager and one of the trustees first though. I was slightly less nervous than I would’ve been because I’d already had one at Hop 50. But I was still quite nervous, I knew that I’d be so disappointed if I didn’t get it because I really wanted it. I had got myself worked up about it.

Fareshare Sussex Depot surplusI have to have a DBS check but they know about my criminal record. I told them that it’s not something that I’d ever want to hold me back. It’s always been in the back of my mind though, that it would somehow stop me from doing what I want to do. But I’ve been in trouble, and I’ve done my time. And now I don’t want it to ruin my future.

If people take a chance on me I can show them, and I can prove them right. It felt good delivering stuff to William Collier once I’d moved out. I got clean in William Collier where it’s easy to get stuck in a bad cycle, in drugs and other stuff. I don’t let it get to me, when people try to bring me down. Instead, I proved others wrong – people who didn’t believe in me – and I proved to myself that I could do it. It was what I wanted to do, I set my mind on it and I did it. You can show people that it can be done.

I now put into the computer what people are receiving from FareShare. I decide what they get after they send their wish list to us. Whatever one project receives today, I made the order for yesterday. I love it.

I found out yesterday that in February I’m going to get more responsibility. I’ll be with the volunteers, I’ll be in charge. It feels great that someone’s taken a chance on me and I have the opportunity to prove myself. It feels nice, they believe in me.

If anyone was thinking about volunteering I would say: go for it, because it opens up opportunities. I started volunteering, I met loads of people and have seen loads of projects. I got my forklift license and now I’ve got a full time job! I’ve got a 3-year contract. Getting experience is great too – leading people, learning about computer systems, managing timings and managing people. Alongside my forklift license I could go on to do loads of stuff. It’s opened up loads of doors for me.”

Volunteers make new friends 

We surveyed 58 volunteers to find out what volunteering has meant to them:

  • 81% said they gained team-working skills
  • 64% said they gained communication skills
  • 79% said they throw less food away
  • 49% have saved money
  • 69% have made new friends
  • 67% have learnt about other services and activities
  • 58 % feel more connected to their community.

The people… I love the people! It’s wonderful meeting people from all different backgrounds and making new friends, I’ve made some great friends through volunteering.

It makes me feel better about myself and it has helped a lot with my low self-esteem and times when I’m feeling blue. It’s a really great community and a wonderful way to make friends while making a difference for those who need it most.

I love a day out on the farm. It takes away my stress and makes me feel positively about the world.

Don’t forget to sign-up to volunteer with us as part of ‘Stop Food Waste Day‘ this Wednesday 24th April.  Find out more about volunteering with the Surplus Food Network.

Check out our new video to see the member projects in action:

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