Homeless Veterans appeal: Making a meal of it at the veterans' residences

The FareShare system ensures that food wasted by supermarkets reaches veterans in need

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The Independent Online

Once a week, a van full of food arrives at St Peter’s Court in Sacriston, a village three miles outside Durham. The produce, unwanted by the large supermarket chains, is relished by the people who live there. They are veterans, some of whom have previously been living on the streets.

The delivery is part of the FareShare system, which helps get unwanted food to frontline charities. FareShare estimates that 3.9 million tons of food is wasted every year by the UK food and drink industry, despite 10 per cent being fit for consumption – enough for around 800 million meals.

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St Peter’s Court, a group of 16 self-contained apartments for former Armed Forces personnel, opened in 2011. It is run by the charity Single Homeless Action Initiative in Durham (SHAID), which pays FareShare a subscription in return for the deliveries and divides the food evenly among the residents.

Tony Hammond, the project manager at St Peter’s Court, said the scheme allowed veterans to eat more healthily. “Without it, when the lads go shopping themselves they would get cheap rubbish like burgers and pizzas, because they’re on limited funds,” he said.

Mr Hammond said the deliveries – which depend upon what food is available – posed a challenge for some veterans. “Some of the lads haven’t got the catering skills they need, so when they get the food they don’t know what to do with it,” he said. “So we try to get the lads together to cook a curry or make a pasta dish from scratch.”

One of the St Peter’s Court residents is Vince, 66, from County Durham, who served in the Army for 17 years. After leaving he got another job, but fell on hard times and eventually ended up sleeping rough on the streets for six weeks.

“We got our delivery yesterday and there was a lot of smiling faces,” said Vince, who declined to give his surname. “We got soup, which was beautiful, and ravioli. Without the FareShare, the lads would get by, but they wouldn’t eat properly.”

Another veterans housing project that uses FareShare is Scottish Veterans Residences (SVR) in Edinburgh, which has its own canteen and makes use of two deliveries a week. It is the sister organisation of Veterans Aid, one of the two charities being supported by The Independent’s Christmas appeal. The other is ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, which also provides SVR with funding.

John McLelland, the head chef at SVR, said the FareShare deliveries “enhanced” his cooking. “It is random – every day is different,” he said. “About a month ago we had impala goulash, zebra curry, boar sausages and ostrich which we tied into a themed night. I don’t take anything that I can’t use, but it gives me a bit of flexibility.”

Phil Cox, the charity’s chief executive, said: “The concept is brilliant, although our chefs do have to work to tailor the food available to the needs of our veterans – making use of 50 mangoes can be a  bit tricky. Our residents benefit from the increased variety in the menus and frequently little ‘extras’ that add a bit more interest to mealtimes.”

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