Phoebe Ruxton, FareShare South West

Ashton Gate has extended the use of its warehouse space for free to FareShare South West until late Spring 2022.

In April 2020 Ashton Gate Stadium opened its Lansdown Concourse to the charity to enable its emergency food relief operation to upscale during the first lockdown. As crowds returned in the summer of 2020, Ashton Gate loaned the use of some of the land earmarked for the Sporting Development, adjacent to the stadium, to the FareShare team.

Martin Griffiths, Ashton Gate Chairman said: “I’m delighted that 15 months and food for more than four million meals later, we are able to help Fareshare South West continue its incredible work through what’s expected to be another tough winter.

“Last year we stepped in to help because we were faced with an unprecedented situation and probably thought last winter was a one-off. Now as we are seeing inflation, energy and house bills and the cost of food all rising we know that is going to mean some really difficult times ahead for many.

“This warehouse is now the largest stockpile of emergency food in the South West and will really help people through a tricky time. It is a great example of showing how large organisations can come together to really benefit their local community at a time of real need.”

Phoebe Ruxton from FareShare South West said: “We couldn’t have delivered food on anything like the scale we did without the support of Ashton Gate Stadium. The challenge of March 2020, was to secure our existing operation and then scale up.  We scaled up six times through 2020.
“The first thing we had to do was secure extra warehouse space. We were calling around the city and calling all sorts of different spaces and Ashton Gate Stadium stepped up immediately and pulled out all the stops to get us into the Lansdown Concourse initially – it was the perfect spot. It was food secure, it had capacity for ‘artic’ trucks to deliver food operationally and then having the staff team and the support of the whole team at Ashton Gate to just do the little things to make this whole thing possible was incredible
“Then moving into this warehouse next door, we’ve had incredible amounts of food that has passed through these warehouse doors. We don’t know what this winter is going to look like but just having the security of the ability to extend this emergency operation, and also to be able to use this space into the spring will be an enormous help to our charity and make a lot more possible.”
By confirming the extension it’s anticipated that food for more than 4.2 million meals or around 1,700 tonnes will have been shipped from the stadium base by the end of January.
Ruxton adds: “We still don’t know the long-term effects of the Covid pandemic on children, but the Food Foundation, supported by Marcus Rashford, has just released a report saying they’ve seen a 27% increase in child food poverty.
“Anecdotally, as a charity with a bird’s eye view of the region, we can see a lot of worry from frontline groups and the people they support that there is an increased need. We support about 400 different schools, charities and community groups week-in, week-out with their weekly deliveries.
“Our top priority is primarily tackling child hunger so a lot of this food will be going to things like children’s centres, schools in areas of high deprivation and holiday projects, ones like the Robins Foundation holiday programmes. To be able to have this space to cater for producing food parcels is critical to these kinds of efforts as it’s not something that we can do in our other warehouses. Since moving here we’ve delivered more than 30,000 individual food parcels to local charities and projects that are on the front line helping combat child hunger.”
If you want to find out more about how you can help or get involved, please go to the FareShare South West website.