Whilst most food banks rely on the kind donations from the public to service their members we have recently discovered an amazing organisation called The Bread and Butter Thing who take a different approach to sourcing food, namely building relationships with distributors, producers, supermarkets, factories and farms to utilise the enormous amount of food that, without their interventions, would most likely go to waste.
Mark Game , who founded TBBT with his wife Jane in 2016 has drawn on his years of experience in the food industry, along with his accountancy skills to keep a beady eye on the financials, and built relationships with suppliers and the like to ensure that the surplus ends up in needy mouths rather than rubbishbins. His model really seems very simple although the logistics behind it requires a huge level of organisation as well as relying on a large bank of fabulous volunteers, approximately 600.
It is a different approach to a standard food bank where people receive food for free as here people have the opportunity to purchase the food at a massively discounted price freeing up their precious money for other essentials such as heating, clothes etc. Operating predominantly in the North of England for now (expansion is most certainly on the horizon) TBBT have established around 70 food hubs where people are able to purchase bags of food for 7:50 saving on average 30 pounds per collection, and enough to feed a family for a week. The amounts of food distributed is quite staggering and also alarming and they regularly redistribute over 100 tonnes of food a week – that’s almost 250,000 meals.
Whereas many food banks lean towards the standard products in their offerings – rice, pasta, sauces etc – due to the relationships with a varied number of producers and supermarkets TBBT are able to offer a wide range of foods including fresh vegetables, fruits, dairy and meat.
When a “Member” (they have over 30,000) arrives at one of their hubs they leave with not one but three bags of food – one bag of cupboard food, one bag of fruit and veg and one bag of chilled and frozen food. This affords the chance for people to receive a varied and healthy food supply (although the occasional treat is there too)
Not just food
The attitudes surrounding food poverty have moved on significantly over the last few years and most people understand that merely supplying food to people in need is not enough and the captive audience that they have could,and should, benefit from additional support that could help them out of the situation they are in or at the very least significantly improve it. TBBT is no different and, where possible, have external partners on hand providing expert advice in debt counselling, housing advice, grant applications and mental health support , information that is often difficult to find.
As mentioned they do not give out the food for free and therefore they are able to generate income to re-invest into the organisation and create new hubs, provide transport and all the other requirements that keep the operation running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Of course donations of surplus food are still required particularly with expansion plans to broaden the areas in which they operate and eventually become nationwide.
With ever increasing numbers of people slipping into various degrees of food poverty and financial insecurity there really is, unfortunately, one way that TBBT is going and that is to further its reach and continue to expand the number of community hubs and assist more people.
In the interview below you can hear exactly what Mark’s plans are for the future.
A great new podcast is now up and running, A Slice of Bread and Butter, in which you can not only hear more about the organisation but get first hand accounts from volunteers, members and staff regarding the impact it has on everyone involved.
Listen now: Slice of Bread and Butter
Find out more
Interview with CEO Mark Game: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0019kk1
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