The Tesco store in Newry is playing its part in donating food to a Portadown charity distributing food to those in need.

Every evening, volunteers from the charity visit five Tesco stores including Newry, Portadown, Craigavon, Banbridge and Bridgewater to collect food items, which would otherwise go to waste, through the FareShare Go programme.

The Portadown Wellness Centre’s food delivery operation has seen increased support from Tesco’s food donations throughout the pandemic, with 50 of the organisation’s daily food parcels made up of contributions from the grocery giant.

The organisation was formed in September to provide support and empowerment to people in Portadown and the surrounding community struggling with mental health, addiction, physical illness, loneliness, or isolation. In March of this year, the Centre responded to the community’s requests for broader support by implementing a food parcel delivery operation to support struggling households.

The food parcels are distributed amongst the community to recipients including local Simon Community Hostels, self-isolating elderly residents, and staff at Craigavon Area Hospital, amongst many others.

To date, the Portadown Wellness Centre has collected 6,340kg of food from Tesco stores since the start of the pandemic, which equates to a staggering 15,100 meals.

Alan McDowell, the Founder and Manager of Portadown Wellness Centre started the organisation due to his own experiences with ill mental health, as well as a response to the growing needs for mental health support in Northern Ireland,

Alan praised Tesco’s continued support of the charity, saying ‘Tesco is an extremely community-oriented business, and it’s obvious that there is a deep passion from staff to care about our people.

“Our daily collections from Tesco are made easier by the dedicated staff who always ensure products are ready on time for collection, and always give generous words of encouragement and kindness to our volunteers.”

Previously, the charity had worked with Tesco to provide specialist support to some of its staff.

Portadown Wellness Centre is part of the FareShare network. Tesco is donating an additional £15m of food to support its partner charities the Trussell Trust and FareShare to respond to the extra demands for emergency food supplies caused by the pandemic.

To date, at least 200 trucks full of Tesco food donations have been delivered to the two charities, with more than 65 tonnes of food being delivered to FareShare Northern Ireland to support 115 charities with 156,432 meals-worth of food.

Recent figures released by the Trussell Trust show that demand at food banks has increased by more than 80% amidst the pandemic.

Declan McKillop, FareShare’s Development Manager for Northern Ireland, said “We are immensely thankful to Tesco for their continued support during the coronavirus pandemic. Many of the frontline charities we work with continue to provide essential support within their communities, and the additional donations from Tesco will help us to keep up a steady supply of food to them during this difficult time.”

FareShare is the UK’s largest food redistribution charity, with 21 Regional Centres across the country. It takes food from the food industry that can’t be sold in shops, either because of packaging errors or a short shelf life. That food, which is the same as the food you’d eat at home, is then redistributed through a network of 11,000 frontline organisations, across the UK such as homeless hostels, school breakfast clubs, domestic violence refuges, older people’s lunch clubs, food banks and hospices. FareShare provides enough food to create almost a million meals for vulnerable people every week.

The £15m of additional food donated by Tesco is part of a £30m package of support which also includes a £1m cash donation to the Trussell Trust and FareShare to support their running costs, a £2m donation to the British Red Cross and a £2m pot from its Bags of Help community donation scheme to support local charities and community groups supporting vulnerable people with £500 grants.

“In every part of the UK there are charities and community groups doing amazing work to feed people during the pandemic, and we are glad that we have been able to support them in helping so many vulnerable people,” said Tesco’s Head of Community, Claire De Silva.

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