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10,000 Meals Donated To Homeless By Two Guildford Co-op Stores In Last Three Years

Published on: 24 Dec, 2019
Updated on: 24 Dec, 2019

By Hugh Coakley

More than 10,000 meals have been donated by local Co-op stores in the last three years to hostels in Guildford and to local families going through hard times.

A boot load of food donated on Christmas Eve (2019) by the Co-op for delivery to homeless hostels in Guildford. It is conservatively estimated that more than 10,000 meals have been donated by the two Co-op stores over the last three years.

And this is just from two stores, those at Woodbridge Hill and on Aldershot Road by Southway. A dedicated team of volunteers from Emmanuel Church in Stoughton and St Francis’ Church in Westborough make it possible by going every day to pick up the surplus food.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS went with volunteers, Martin Fance and Tony Ferris, from Emmanuel Church, on Christmas Eve to help with the pick up and distribution to hostels in town.

Melanie McMahon, who works at the Aldershot Road Co-op, said: “It’s a brilliant idea. If it wasn’t going here, it would be wasted.” She is pictured with Tony Ferris.

It was quite a haul with bread, pastries, ready meals, yoghurts, pies all being loaded into sacks at the shops and filling up a boot of the car.

Eva Goddard, a staff member at Cyrenian House in Walnut Tree Close which helps 15 single, homeless men, said: “Our tenants really look forward to receiving the food donations.”

One resident, cooking up a huge pot of a Polish dish called Begos of meat, cabbage and onions to take to work through the week, said: “Everyone needs help sometimes.”

Volunteers Tony Ferris and Martin Fance with Woodbridge Hill Co-op store manager, Steve Frost. The bag of bananas and the other food donations will be welcomed at the hostels.

Archie McCutcheon, who was formerly homeless and is a recovering alcoholic, works at Vaughan House in Chertsey Street which has about 50 residents. He said: “It’s great. It is well appreciated. It all gets used.”

A resident at Vaughan House was keen to look through the food sacks as they were brought in. She said: “There are six of us who get together and cook and one of us is a chef so we cook some banging meals. We love the donations. Who wouldn’t?”

A thank you card from the residents of Cyrenian House to the volunteers who collect surplus food from Co-op stores for the hostels in town.

Steve Frost, from the Woodbridge Hill Co-op, said: “The Co-op has a scheme called Food Share which has been going for a couple of years. The Guildford stores were pioneers in this and the aim is to have 75% of all Co-op stores doing it.

“The problem is to get the volunteers. If there are charities who could help, please contact us.”

“Three years ago” Steve said, indicating the pile of food being scanned into the sacks, “all of this would have been going to landfill.”

And it isn’t small sums. Steve totted up the day’s donations. £121 at retail price from Woodbridge Hill alone. That adds up.

Steve Frost, Co-op store manager at Woodbridge Hill, scans food items being donated into a sack held by volunteer, Tony Ferris.

Tony Ferris, a co-ordinator from Emmanuel Church, said: “We estimate that we have provided more than 10,000 meals since we started three years ago. It’s a great way of getting food to those that can’t always afford it and it’s a brilliant way of making sure that the food is not wasted.”

With a reported 2,000-plus food banks delivering supplies to 1.6 million people living in food poverty, there appears to be a huge need both nationally and locally.

Some supermarkets, like Tesco, Waitrose and Asda, have national partnerships with food banks and distribute huge quantities of food and other donated goods.

Waitrose was reported to have contributed 470 tonnes of donated goods to The Trussell Trust in 2018, an organisation that supports around 1,200 food banks in the UK and campaigns on issues that lock people into poverty.

Others, such as the Co-op, Lidl and Aldi, distribute their edible surplus locally rather than through food banks with Aldi claiming that it donated more than two million meals in 2018.

In Guildford, there are food banks in Park Barn, Merrow and Bellfields and one run by the Salvation Army.

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