Cheese Bar & Fareshare launch campaign to save UK dairy industry

Mathew Carver, founder of much-loved purveyors of British cheese, The Cheese Bar and The Cheese Truck, has announced that he has launched Got Milk, a Crowdfunder campaign raising funds to purchase and redistribute dairy products which would otherwise end up going to waste.

Since the coronavirus crisis began, the British Dairy and Farmhouse Cheese industry has been hugely impacted – at its peak in early April, over 500,000 litres of milk were being poured down the drain each week by small family farms across the country.

At the same time, people are relying more than ever on food banks, community kitchens and other charitable initiatives to ensure they have enough food to survive – something doesn’t quite add up. Working in partnership with FareShare, the UK’s largest charity fighting hunger and food waste, The Cheese Bar aims to create a bridge between these two issues.

On 13 March, when the government ordered the shutdown of hospitality and leisure businesses, small cheese producers saw wholesale sales virtually disappear overnight – in some instances this accounted for up to 80% of revenue.

This also means many producers are now sitting on mountains of cheese with nowhere for it to go, whilst also facing a huge drop in demand. This has left cheese makers in a state of crisis, some even halting production altogether. What happens to these valued producers now will affect our dairy and hospitality industries for many years to come.

There will be three initial focuses for this, firstly: Liquid milk. This will be a joint venture with FareShare utilising their ‘Surplus with Purpose’ fund and to start with working with two producers, Calon Wen (Narberth, Wales) and Plurenden Manor Farm (Kent).

Got Milk are raising funds to purchase surplus raw milk in bulk at a fair price from dairy farmers, FareShare will then cover the cost of packaging, pasteurising and production associated to bottling the milk and distribution costs to re-direct it to partner food banks, charities and community kitchens across the UK. For each Got Milk t-shirt sold they will be able to re-direct over 25 litres of Milk to those in need across the UK.

The second focus will be on sheep’s milk. The Sheep Milk Company is run by Simon Stott in Preston Lancashire. He saw an 80% drop in sales due to COVID-19, and with little market for liquid sheep’s milk, he relies on cheesemakers to use his produce.

The Got Milk fund will commit to buy stock from Kupros Dairy and Shepherd’s Purse - two fantastic producers of fresh sheep's milk cheese. With the help of FareShare, this cheese will then go on to the FareShare charity network to feed some of the country’s most vulnerable families and individuals.

The final producer they are working with is Quicke’s, who make clothbound Cheddar by hand on their farm in Devon. Through initial discussions with FareShare, Mathew found out that cheddar is one of the most in demand items for their food charity partners. Got Milk will be purchasing cheddar and other hard cheeses from Quicke’s at cost price to get it into the hands of those who need it most.

Carver said, 'The COVID-19 crisis is exposing a number of issues in our food system. As a produce-driven business, we felt we had to lend our voice and support to producers who need it, some we work with already and some who we’d like to try and help. Pairing that up to meet the demands of FareShare, who are truly an incredible organisation helping to get food to people who need it, seemed to make complete sense.”

Michael Shields, representing FareShare, said, 'FareShare’s mission is 'to let no good food go to waste’ so we are delighted to have been approached by Mathew and his team who have fantastic relationships with many dairy farmers across the UK.

'If successful this initiative will unlock many more pints of pasteurised milk, an important part of many of our diets, especially for children. More milk will be welcomed by our network of 11,000 charities across the UK – who are providing the equivalent of over 2 million meals per week during the COVID19 crisis”.