SOFEA was founded to enable people to transform their lives meeting two needs – providing education/ employability skills training and supporting those in need through the provision of food.
SOFEA, as an independent local charity, joined the FareShare network in order to access surplus food from the food industry and distribute it to other charitable organisations and through its Community Larder network.
We are part of the ecosystem of support for those in need and so our aims in distributing this food are:
- To empower and equip people to manage the immediate effects of disadvantage and inequality.
- To use the convening power of food to enable people to transform their lives.
“Using the convening power of food” means providing the food to people who need it through a network of other charities and Community Larders that bring people together in safe and trusted spaces and places on a weekly basis to benefit from peer support and other partner services whilst building links with their communities.
We want to work with others to provide a coherent approach in our communities to mitigating the worst effects of inequality and disadvantage, and provide ways to enable people to transform their lives by using the food provision as a gateway to further support such as employability advice, mental health support and digital inclusion.
We distribute food to our Community Food Members (CFMs – other charities who cook and provide food for their members) they pay a fee for which they receive deliveries of good quality food which they choose from our stock. The CFM will provide other services alongside the food to support their beneficiaries, which they may well charge for – lunch clubs and day centres for example.
Members of our Community Larders pay a nominal weekly fee for which they receive access to more than simply the food at a discounted rate.
Therefore, there are three reasons that we make a membership charge:
Our Community Larders provide more than just food. This will sometimes mean access to other goods such as household items.
It also means access to our employability services, mental health support and digital inclusion.
The membership of a community larder also provides a sense of community, a peer group and a sense of belonging, helping to reduce isolation and loneliness.
Our Community Food Members and network of Community Larders across the Thames Valley and South Midlands are supported by 30 dedicated staff across our two large warehouses processing and distributing over 1,550 tonnes of ambient, chilled and frozen food using our fleet of 7 refrigerated vans.