Cumbrian food banks’ plea as demand increases

Published on
23 April 2024

Food banks in Cumbria are issuing an urgent plea for donations as more and more desperate families struggle to put food on the table.

FareShare Lancashire & Cumbria - which supplies food to its 51 Cumbrian groups and three in Lancashire - says demand has outweighed supply in recent months, as more charitable groups set up to support people in need.

This comes even as 1.1 million meals were delivered across Cumbria at the end of 2023, and The Cumberland Building Society offered significant support through its Kinder Kind of Kitchens initiative.

Now the charity is hoping to encourage more businesses in the region to donate produce or divert surplus stock to its Food Redistribution Centre – to help feed thousands of people.

Naomi Winter, CFM Coordinator for the charity, said: “It is hard to meet demand because it is ever-increasing.

“One of our aims is to reduce food waste, and as supermarkets work to do the same, they’ve got better at ordering the right volumes, which means they then have less surplus, which is the stock we survive on.

“At the same time, need within communities is increasing as more people struggle to make ends meet and turn to charities or community groups for help. Our other aim is to tackle food poverty though, so we continue to do our absolute best to meet each of our member groups’ needs.

“We’re grateful for any donation we receive, big or small – it will feed someone in need.”

Between August and December last year, FareShare Lancashire & Cumbria (L&C) redistributed 460 tonnes of food, the equivalent of 1.1 million meals, up 10 per cent on the same period in the previous year. However, the number of groups in need of food for their communities went up 22 per cent at the same time.

Demand in Carlisle in particular has seen a significant increase over the winter leading to extra deliveries.

“We have two vans going out every day making five deliveries of food,” said Naomi. “From February 21st we put another van on the road, making an extra 16 deliveries each month to Carlisle alone.”

The increase in deliveries has been made possible by the support of The Cumberland’s Kinder Kind of Kitchens initiative which donated £250,000 to FareShare L&C in a bid to tackle food poverty.

The grant is enabling the FareShare regional centre – run by Recycling Lives Charity - to offer regular funding to every one of its Community Food Members (CFMs) in Cumbria. These include a range of inspiring projects from food banks to school breakfast clubs.

Further Cumberland funding of £18,278 also meant FareShare L&C could offer fridges and freezers for its CFMs, allowing them to take extra deliveries and safely store fresh and frozen food.

“Fresh food is so important to us,” said Naomi. “Just because you are struggling doesn’t mean you should be deprived of healthy food - and that is even more important in these tough winter months when good nutrition is vital.”

FareShare intercepts the surplus produce from the food retail supply chain that has never had the chance to be sold and often has weeks, if not months, before it hits its sell by dates.

Without FareShare the surplus food would be sent to landfill or incineration – so this scheme is not only a lifeline for local shoppers but for the environment too.

Donations of meat, fresh vegetables, and store cupboard staples such as cereals are desperately needed. If you can help, please contact Naomi on 0788 4510073 or email

Cumberland assistant cluster manager, Ali Elliott, saw for herself the difference the project makes when she volunteered at Wigton Food Pantry.

“A couple of us volunteered every Wednesday morning during January,” she said, “and we love being involved. Whether we are serving coffee, unpacking food or chatting to people, it’s a real privilege to help in any way we can.”

In 2023, FareShare Lancashire & Cumbria distributed 1,000 tonnes of food - equivalent to 2.3 million meals – across the two counties. Additionally, it delivered non-food items, including 16 tonnes of pet food and 9 tonnes of toiletries, to members, supported by 78 volunteers who gave their precious time to support communities.