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Give a little love header

How we've made a difference

Since it launched last Christmas, our Give a Little Love campaign has raised more than £3 million to help FareShare and Home-Start support families in need. We spoke to 3 people who’ve seen the difference the donations have made

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Charlene

‘MY CHILDREN LOVE IT HERE’

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Picture: Table8Media / Asher Gouldbourne

Home-Start Greenwich has supported Charlene, a single mother, since her first child was born in 2012. FareShare provides the centre with produce that parents can take home, as well as the food that becomes snacks and meals for visitors.

“Food is an essential, of course, but it’s more than that,” says Hazel C, who is head of community at Home-Start Greenwich Children’s Centre. Sitting expectantly on the side are plastic crates piled high with fresh produce – leafy bunches of beetroot, winter squash and bags of apples – as well as packets of cereal and beans. The crates vary slightly in size: the largest is intended for Charlene and her six children, who are on their way to the centre for a post-school play, snack and chat.

By providing food – sourced from surplus provided by FareShare – the Home-Start team gives a tangible reason for struggling parents to come to the centre, talk to staff, and perhaps benefit from the other services. 

Image of Charlene's Story

Picture: Table8Media / Asher Gouldbourne

“Parents will come along and say, ‘You’re the only person I’ve seen all week.’ We’ll have a chat and discover they need fuel vouchers, or we’ll see their little girl hasn’t got any tights and say, ‘Why don’t we get some tights? I’ve got some upstairs.’” The other day a well-dressed, well-spoken woman came in who was being denied money by her partner. “It transpired she was in a domestic violence relationship. She didn’t have money for food or for sanitary towels or shower gel or anything. It’s very easy to make false assumptions about people. Here we don’t judge.”

Charlene has been coming to this centre since 2012, when her first daughter was born – “and they’ve helped me and my family out so much. We really appreciate it.” A single mother with no family support beyond a brother who lives in Scotland, she has found the centre an invaluable hub not just for food, but for childcare, advice and socialising. “I have met a few mums through here. We catch up when the kids are at school, give each other tips and advice – and the children love it here. They love the teddy bears’ picnics, the carnivals and cookery lessons in the school holidays.”

‘It's an invaluable hub, not just for food but for socialising too'

With the food she gets from FareShare, Charlene cooks from scratch: “Chicken curry, spaghetti bolognese, soups and stews – from the moment they’re six months old I cook for them. I don’t buy jarred baby food.” During lockdown, the centre’s delivery service was a godsend. “I wasn’t allowed in the shops, because there were too many of us. I don’t think they thought about single parents much,” she says quietly. Now the older children are back at school (“hitting all their targets. I’m so happy,” Charlene smiles), they have a more settled routine. “They love sitting together at dinner, telling each other what they’ve been up to at school.”

On weekends they make cupcakes, or pizza to eat while they watch a movie. “You love baking, don’t you,” she smiles at Rebecca, who nods vigorously, then adds that her favourite food is chicken curry. “My favourite is blueberries, apple berries – and chicken curry,” pipes up Maria. Lydia, aged 3, whispers that she likes sandwiches with cheese and ham. At this point, three-week-old Tia opens her eyes, smiles sleepily, then nods off again. Rebecca turns authoritatively to Charlene, “Tia is milk drunk again."

Image of Charlene's Story

Picture: Table8Media / Asher Gouldbourne

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CLAIRE

‘IT’S CHANGED THE LIVES OF OUR PARENTS’

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Picture: Steve Morgan

Claire Lundie is the assistant head teacher at Chiltern Primary School in Hull, where food from FareShare is used for education as well as nourishment, and not just for the children.

‘The food pulls parents in but it's about the support it gives to the community'

“The Chat & Choose event changes the lives of our parents. Every Thursday morning attendees pay a £1 membership fee to come and get a tea or a coffee and a biscuit before an event run by the school nurse; it might be about establishing bedtime routines, or breast cancer awareness, or we might have someone from the local community with advice on writing a CV, things like that. Everyone brings a bag for life and chooses six of the FareShare items to take home with them afterwards; it might be fresh fruit and vegetables, or stewing steak, pasta, bacon; there is such a brilliant selection. The food really pulls parents in, but it’s about the doors that it opens, and the support that it gives to the community.

Image of Claire's Story
Image of Claire's Story
Image of Claire's Story

Picture: Steve Morgan

“We also use FareShare produce for the ‘life skills’ part of the curriculum; we’ll look at what ingredients we have that day and choose a meal we can make from those – say we have mince, tomatoes, onions and pasta, we can make bolognese. The children actually cook that meal and then sit down to eat it together, and afterwards they can take the ingredients home to recreate that recipe. They’ve got to learn, haven’t they!”

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CODY

‘I CRIED WITH RELIEF’

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Picture: Steve Morgan

Cody Blake was put in touch with Home-Start South Warwickshire when she was hospitalised due to complications during her second pregnancy. Home-Start volunteer Marie Ashford supported her with care for her three-year-old, Logan, as well as with emotional support when Cody faced an emergency C-section.

‘Without Home-Start life would be manic, stressful and lonely'

“Marie didn’t leave my side until baby Finley was safely delivered. When you have a baby, you want to share the experience with someone. Facing it alone feels so lonely, so isolating. Having Marie there turned it into something positive.

“Marie only left when I was settled on a ward and returned the next day with premature baby clothes including sleep suits, hats, nappies and vests. It was such a huge relief because I had nothing that would fit my tiny 3lb baby.

“Finley and I were in hospital for a week and then he was transferred to the neonatal unit at Warwick Hospital following a bleed on the brain. I don’t drive so visiting Finley would require a six-bus round-trip, but even then the timings made it impossible. The thought of not being able to see my baby was unbearable. I couldn’t face not being able to feed or change him. But one phone call from Home-Start removed all that stress. Marie told me they’d received funding from the John Lewis and Waitrose Give A Little Love campaign that they could use to transport me to and from the hospital, so that I could visit and bond with my baby. I cried with relief.

Image of Cody's Story

Picture: Steve Morgan

“Without Home-Start life would be manic, stressful and lonely. During the first lockdown I felt so alone and isolated. I don’t feel like that anymore. I feel like I have family, I have people in my life who care for me and the kids. I’m especially touched that even people who don’t know me, people I’ve never met, provided such kindness and support that meant that I could be with my baby during those precious first few weeks.”

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BECAUSE TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE

Find out more about our Give a Little Love campaign here

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