Volunteering students give local charity food for thought

University of Sussex students Charlotte Swope and Nabhojit Dey are volunteers at FareShare Sussex, the local branch of a nationwide charity which aims to tackle food waste and fight hunger in the UK.

From its warehouse in Moulsecoomb, FareShare Sussex works with businesses to ensure that surplus good-to-eat food doesn’t end up in landfill but is instead redistributed to those who need it most.

As well as being part of the team of 90 or so volunteers who work at the warehouse, students Charlotte and Nabhojit have also completed research projects into different aspects of volunteering at the organisation.

Charlotte, who is in her final year studying for a BA in geography and international relations, returned as a volunteer at FareShare Sussex following an internship there last summer. Her research looks at why people volunteer and how this information can help organisations with volunteer retention.

“Working at FareShare has been one of the best things I’ve done during my degree,” says Charlotte. “It has given me a real sense of perspective and shown me a world beyond the campus. It’s great that I can use my research as a way to give back to an organisation that has given me so many opportunities.”

Nabhojit is studying for an MSc in social research methods and has been volunteering since November 2017. Nabhojit, an international student from India, worked with other students from Sussex to complete an ethnographic study into the wellbeing of volunteers.

Nabhojit in the FareShare Sussex warehouse.

“I enjoy spending time with people and sharing stories over a cup of coffee,” explains Nabhojit. “I’ve learnt so much by just chatting to people, particularly those I volunteer with.” These conversations helped Nabhojit and his fellow researchers to develop a set of recommendations which they then presented to the full-time staff at FareShare Sussex.

FareShare Sussex relies on volunteers to sort items and help with deliveries to the 100 local charities and community groups it regularly works with. Understanding this vital aspect of their operations is helping to shape the organisation’s approach to its volunteers.

“We simply don’t have the time or resources to conduct research like this ourselves,” explains Sarah Gibbons, who coordinates the volunteering programme at FareShare Sussex.

“It’s great to work with Charlotte and Nabhojit on something that contributes to their studies as well as having a practical use for us as an organisation. We’ve already been able to incorporate some of their recommendations into our volunteering strategy.”

Nabhojit is now thinking about how he might able to start a similar project in India. “My time at FareShare has made me really think about how we can find simple solutions to global issues like food waste. I’ve made friends, developed my team working skills and, above all, I feel like I’m making a real contribution to society.”

Main photo – Charlotte (centre) with other volunteers and staff at FareShare Sussex.

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