More than one million M&S meals donated to causes and charities

Since 2015, M&S’s food redistribution programme has been connecting M&S stores with local community groups that use surplus food to feed those in need.

Monday, 12th July 2021, 6:00 am

Since 2015, M&S’s food redistribution programme has been connecting M&S stores with local community groups that use surplus food to feed those in need.

M&S stores across Northern Ireland have donated 1,078,413 meals through partnerships with local causes since the retailer’s food redistribution programme began in 2015.

Since March 1 2020, more than 725,000 meals have been donated, helping to support vulnerable people across Northern Ireland during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Celebrating the milestone is Vikki Sinclair, Social Supermarket manager and support worker from local charity Via Wings and Allison Heasley, M&S Food Hall Colleague
Celebrating the milestone is Vikki Sinclair, Social Supermarket manager and support worker from local charity Via Wings and Allison Heasley, M&S Food Hall Colleague

Surplus food from M&S stores across the province has been a lifeline for those reliant on local causes, including Lifereach NI, Lisburn Food Bank and SOS Bus NI.

The programme has had a particularly massive impact on a local Dromore-based charity, Via Wings.

Founded in 2009, Via Wings was awarded the Queens Award for Voluntary Service thanks to its dedicated and loyal team of volunteers.

The charity, which is based in Dromore, Co. down, offers a wrap-around service that aims to provide a caring and non-discriminatory environment for the entire community.

It currently runs various projects to tackle issues such as Fareshare, which provides fresh food in the Via Wings sheltered Archway, which is a safe space for the community to access food anonymously and respectfully.

Since March 2020, the charity has collected approximately 47,621 meals from the M&S Lisburn store.

Gail Redmond, Founder of Via Wings and a recipient of a British Empire Medal, said: “We feel extremely privileged to be working alongside the team at M&S Lisburn.

“We understand the mental stress it can have on families when they find themselves in a position where they are unable to provide food to feed their children. It is an extremely lonely and vulnerable place to be.

“For this reason, disadvantaged people who are struggling to feed themselves and their family are able to discreetly collect food from the local Archway.”

On average, four hundred people collect food from the charity on a monthly basis.

As well as food, the charity receives surplus flowers from M&S stores throughout Northern Ireland.

“The flowers make many of our clients’ days, with some even tearing up and explaining how they have never received flowers ever before,” explained Gail.

“We had one lady who was able to take a bunch of flowers and lay them on her husband’s grave as she could not afford any of her own.

“These small gestures really help the wellbeing and mental health of so many local people.

“We want to take a moment to thank M&S Lisburn for their kindness and help in supporting the local charities and families within our community.

“The food and flowers have been a blessing to many and the team has been incredibly helpful and supportive.”

JP McShane, Store Manager at M&S Lisburn, continued: “Food poverty is an ongoing issue in Northern Ireland and we all have to do our part to tackle it.

“Many households have struggled through the pandemic as they relied on school meals for their children and that was no longer an option during lockdown.

“At M&S Northern Ireland we’re proud of the role we play in our local community, and we’re continuing to do our bit to support where we can.

“Our goal is to halve our food waste by 2025, but when there is food surplus, our priority is for it to end up on someone’s plate through our redistribution programme with Neighbourly.

“This has never been more important than it is currently and we’re delighted that the food is reaching those who need it through our brilliant charity partners.”

Highlighting the tremedous pressure and lack of support for many local charities and causes, COO of Neighbourly, Zoe Colosimo, added: “Local charities continue to be under immense pressure and need support now more than ever as the pandemic continues to affect communities.

“Surplus food and donations have delivered essential help quickly to where it’s needed most - at the heart of our local neighbourhoods.

“It’s fantastic to see the phenomenal effort that has been put in by M&S store teams throughout Northern Ireland and good local causes.”

M&S is always looking for new partners to work with.

Local charity and community groups who would like to get involved in the food surplus programme or other charity initiatives are encouraged to email [email protected] to find out more information.

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