22 Mar 2023

Transforming surplus food into nutritious meals for people in need


Since July 2021, FareShare Midlands have been trialling the production of healthy and nutritious meals made using surplus food.

Our ‘Community Meals' are made daily at Nottingham City Council's headquarters - Loxley House, by our hardworking Kitchen Team. Staff and volunteers work together to prep, cook and package the meals using surplus food from within the food industry that would have otherwise gone to waste.

Our kitchen team have been busy trialling the best bulk-cooking methods to efficiently cook meals in high volumes. Mirroring large-scale manufacturing, the team prepare and cook components of meals to be assembled at the final stages - utilising as much surplus food as possible.

We have also began accessing and unlocking new surplus food from manufacturing. This food, sometimes termed ‘work in progress', lends itself to cooking activities as the food is already part-prepared and part-cooked. By accessing this surplus food, we're able to cook more community meals quickly and save more food from going to waste.

Throughout the trial period, we have worked with a selection of our Community Food Members to understand which meal types are better suited in their communities and understand the benefits of using our meal service.

Feedback from our members told us:

  • They help organisations reduce their costs and time spent in the kitchen
  • They allow organisations to add healthy, nutritious & warm meals to their existing service
  • They help to reduce the strain and pressures on volunteer time and recruitment for organisations
  • They give organisations the opportunity to build on their income streams by establishing a small charge for the meals

The trial consisted of 16 organisations receiving the Community Meals free of charge, and putting them to the test with their communities. The meals were used in community cafes, food pantries, lunch clubs, social eating events and more.

Following the success of the trial, we have now established our Community Meals service and Membership . This means that charities and community groups are able to receive regular orders of soups, main meals and desserts to serve to their beneficiaries for as little as £1.00 per portion.

"It has been really helpful and has boosted our boxes of food for the community, especially as times are getting really hard now. It has made a huge difference and has put a lot of variety into the food we distribute" - Community Meals Member feedback

FareShare Midlands' Community Meals are created with social eating in mind. We understand the importance of eating good food with good company, for the benefit of our mental and physical health. Packaged in 10-portion packs, the pre-made meals are ideal for any organisation wanting to run a social service centred around a warm meal.

"Fresh, nutritious, tasty, very affordable, and eaten in a warm, welcoming atmosphere where people can enjoy a social occasion. Customer feedback has been excellent and the whole thing is so much easier so it feels sustainable in terms of volunteer workload. People have really been appreciative and have brought other people with them to the next event. We are currently looking at getting posters printed in different languages so we can extend our reach across the community." - Community Meals Member feedback

The meals are simple to heat and serve, with minimal kitchen equipment needed so can be used in all kinds of food spaces. Meals aren't limited to serving spaces, as most of our meals can be re-heated and served at any food-safe site, such as a food bank, social supermarket, local church and community centre.

“This meal service has allowed me to save so so so much time! We drive to the depot and collect, then drop and store at our venue. Two days before the event staff at the centre take stuff out to defrost and we show up on the day and make the meal accompaniments, such as salad. Then we just slowly heat the meals in three large pans… and then serve.” - Community Meals Member feedback

The simplicity of the meals also means organisations no longer have to spend hours in the kitchen. This not only reduces the amount of electricity and gas needed to cook the full meal, but also frees up time for hardworking staff and volunteers to turn their attention elsewhere. With the rising cost of bills and food prices, FareShare Midlands is hopeful the Community Meals will benefit organisations in multiple ways.

“Our venue is happy as we hardly use any cooking fuel.” - Community Meals Member feedback

“We are freed up to get the space looking welcoming and interact with customers which is really needed in the post-covid environment.” - Community Meals Member feedback

See the meals in action in this piece, filmed by BBC East Midlands Today.

Want to find out more about the project?
Find out if your organisation can receive the meals
Volunteer at Loxley House
Donate your surplus food