As we head towards our first audit as a charity and our first report to the Charity Commission it is hard not to pause and look back to see where we have come from. It has been an extraordinary 20 months, from a small meeting in London when the subject of this charity was first mentioned, to this month when we completed our initial production run of our Country Casserole. This year we have produced 20,408 meals for those in need around Bristol and Newcastle and set up a charity with significant momentum and support.

It is an understatement to say, as we set out on our mission to make a significant difference to those in food poverty, that our knowledge level in the area of food manufacturing was not particularly high. We certainly went up many blind alleys discovered many dead ends and assumed many things incorrectly, and we were grateful for plentiful advice from so many people who understood the area so much better than we did. When I look back at notes from March 2015 when I started working full time for the charity it is clear that only their sage advice helped us to be in the position where one year later we had the delight of delivering our first food to those most in need.

Many of the milestones of the first year are recorded in the news section of our website, from the meeting with manufacturers, learning about packaging, the food business, to meeting those who we are actually helping. So is the set up of the charity itself, from deciding on names and aims and missions to meeting with accountants and PR companies, design agencies, printers, tax specialists, lawyers and consultants, it has been a very busy start up.

We have also had the chance to meet many of those we are helping and to be amazed at people’s resilience in trying and difficult circumstances. Not only have we met those who are in need but also the huge band of people at the underlying charities who dedicate themselves every day to helping those in need. If we ever found ourselves somewhat overwhelmed by what we were doing, then a day with FareShare volunteers delivering to the charities was always the absolute tonic and made one realise exactly what is important about this charity and its aims.

We have established a wonderful relationship with FareShare the distribution charity who have and will distribute most of our food to those 2,000 plus charities they support that directly feed those in need. Their help and support has been hugely appreciated and whilst we will deliver directly to chosen charities and those nominated by our donors, they are the mainstay of how we deliver our food to those most in need.

Now our aim is to increase our production to above 125,000 meals and so we are looking back on this first production run and working out what we can do better; increase the meat content, improve the packaging, ensure we have the same quality but lower the cost of production, improve distribution and find larger storage. We are also planning to sell the Country Casserole on the basis that for every one sold we can donate one to someone in need, allied to fund raising, corporate sponsors and grants from other Foundations we feel confident that this we allow us to meet our target for next year and the following years.

What is not mentioned on the website is the incredibly generous support of our founding donors who have enabled us to get to this stage with such speed and to produce such a high quality product. Not only have they contributed the funds required for the charity set up and production of the first run but they have also given support and advice and introduced the charity to others who have in turn helped. It is the network of people prepared to give their time and expertise as well as funds and introductions to others so generously that will allow this charity to succeed. Thank you to you all and thank you especially to our trustees and ambassadors for their time and generosity.

Apologies that this update has taken so long to be produced but we had to build the website as well!!