Fiona Ollerhead is the Founder and Director of The Pantry Partnership, a social enterprise working in and around Salisbury to transform food waste.
Founded in 2011, The Pantry Partnership creates delicious and nutritious meals from next to nothing – using perfectly good surplus food that would otherwise go to waste – and distributes them across the community.
Hi Fiona, What inspired you to start The Pantry Partnership?
Coming from the corporate world I was keen to do my own thing and I knew that I wanted to do something that made a difference. Initially my idea was to run a food project based in Ghana, where I had spent some time and been totally inspired by the resourcefulness of the Ghanaian women who didn’t waste anything when it came to food, because they understood scarcity. I became passionate about the idea that everyone should have access to food, and began to realise that the need was local as well as overseas. I piloted a local food waste event and it grew from there.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in the early days of the project?
Looking back I realise I was quite naive when I started out. My experience was from a completely different field and I had never worked in the third sector before, I just wanted to give my idea a go and make a difference. When people started asking me for mission statements and charity numbers I didn’t have a clue! That knocked my confidence and I felt really inadequate. I also felt a sense of imposter syndrome because I wasn’t a chef. These days people accept that a cook can be as good as a chef but it felt like a big deal ten years ago. Very quickly I had to learn to find my own way and I began to realise that just being me was ok.
How have you adapted during the coronavirus pandemic?
During the pandemic we have continued to collect surplus food from local businesses and deliver it directly to beneficiaries. Since October 2020 we have been delivering food packages every week, consisting of fresh fruit,veg and one or two cooked meals to 314 different people across Salisbury, Tisbury & Amesbury. Our volunteers have had to work in bubbles – pairs or family groups. All our other activities have come to a stop – including our pop up cafes, corporate lunches and event catering. In normal times these generate much needed income to enable our other activities so it has been quite a hit.
What is the most rewarding thing about running The Pantry Partnership?
I love being around people who love to feed people. Some of my favourite times are spent around a kitchen prep table with a bunch of people, chopping vegetables and chatting. We’ve learnt to take pride in the fact that we are not chefs, and still we make delicious food to share with others. I also love to see people grow. Sometimes a person who we’ve supported will come to volunteer with us, and their confidence grows, other times I’ve been privileged to be able to encourage and mentor others who want to try out a new social project or idea.
What’s next for the project?
This past year has taught me to focus on what we do best, which is dealing with surplus food. Going forward we want to concentrate on making meals from surplus and offering this as a service to community organisations. I can’t say much more yet, but watch this space!
How can people support The Pantry Partnership?
Give us some cash! No, seriously if there are people out there who can’t volunteer or don’t have the time, but could afford £10 or £20 a month, or a one off donation it would make all the difference, and do come and visit us one day!
Visit www.thepantrypartnership.org for more information.