Young people carrying food in the SOFEA warehouse

SOFEA logoSOFEA alleviates multiple social problems: the need for jobs and training for disadvantaged young people; the demand for nutritious food for vulnerable people; and the danger of supplies from the food industry going to waste.

More than just a warehouse

Working in partnership with the Fareshare Trust, SOFEA addresses all of these problems in one go: operating a warehouse that collects excess food from supermarkets, and delivering it to local charities that can distribute it to people in need. Crucially, SOFEA creates jobs and training within the warehouse for young people who have dropped out of the education system or never had employment. They receive vital experience of the workplace, as well as Maths and English tuition, helping them build a better future for themselves.

The team at SOFEA is skilled in working with people who have not seen themselves as successful in traditional learning environments. Alongside practical and academic training, there is a strong focus on developing the attitudes and mindsets of trainees to facilitate fundamental behaviour changes. SOFEA has worked with over 100 young people and 40 adults to date, with over 25 people gaining their forklift licenses and 50 passing functional skills tests in Maths and English. The charity also works with local businesses to create employment opportunities for trainees, and has its own employment agency, Futures Placed, to help trainees find gainful employment.

OCF endowment provides stability

According to OCF’s Grants Panel Chair, SOFEA was one of the most promising groups we have seen for years. Thanks to the yield coming from the David and Claudia Harding endowment fund, we have recently been able to award £25,000 towards cash-flow funding to SOFEA to help them develop their social enterprise and become self-sustaining.

Lessons for OCF

SOFEA’s example has illustrated to us the problem facing young charities in need of initial funding to help them implement a good idea. It seems that social impact investing of the sort that could enable young charities to grow, and that is being incentivised by government, is still not the game changer for funding that was initially predicted. Nonetheless, as a community foundation we remain keen to work more closely with those charities who could benefit from this type of support, where funders act as ‘investors’ rather than donors. This provides the opportunity to ‘recycle’ funds, which can provide a financial as well as a social return. However, it is also our view that social investment will not displace the need for sustained, ‘traditional’ philanthropy any time soon.

“I need to continue here because you keep me out of trouble. I’m calmer and my attitude has changed.”

SOFEA trainee

At a glance

Profile

Food distribution warehouse providing training to disadvantaged young people

Social themes

Youngsters not in education, employment or training (NEET)

Food waste

Provision of food to charities and food banks

Results

Empowered, work-ready young people

Less wasteful practices by supermarkets

Low-cost provisions for charities