FareShare, the food distribution charity, has seen a prolific rise in the number of charities it works with. At the start of 2011, 600 charities were members; now there are 777 and a waiting list.
In return for a fee, charities such as drug rehabilitation units and drop-in centres for the homeless receive a regular supply of food from FareShare, which they use to prepare meals. Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of FareShare, attributes this rise in membership to the recession and cuts in local authority funding.
But there is another reason - its partnership with the supermarket chain Sainsbury's. The link began in 1994 when FareShare was a project run by the homelessness charity Crisis, but in the past two years it has undergone a qualitative change.
In 2011 the Million Meal Appeal was launched. The annual campaign, held over one weekend, urges Sainsbury's customers to buy and donate cupboard items such as pasta and rice, and the supermarket matches those with financial donations - these total £500,000 so far. "We made it clear it would be wrong for Sainsbury's to profit from the generosity of its customers," says Boswell.
Andy White, head of community affairs at Sainsbury's, says the direct in-kind giving of the Million Meal Appeal is a cultural change that circumvents fundraising fatigue.
The supermarket also makes fresh food donations throughout the year. Relative to FareShare's annual £2m turnover, the partnership is significant. The charity also benefits from the sale of Christmas cards at Sainsbury's stores, which bring in between £120,000 and £140,000 a year.