A FOOD distribution company with a base in Chester is ramping up aid to struggling families with regular drop-offs to food banks in Cheshire, North Wales and Shropshire.

Harlech Foodservice, which has distribution centres in Sovereign Way, Chester, and Criccieth, Gwynedd, have sent 10 truckloads of supplies worth £60,000, including bread, eggs and dairy products, salmon and steak during the last two weeks.

Their latest drop-offs included 180 boxes of bread, over 10,000 eggs, 79 trays of yoghurts and 98 catering-size cooking sauces as well as bread roll and sponge cake mix.

The company, whose customers include schools, pubs, restaurants and care homes, have been left with a warehouse full of fresh, frozen, chilled, tinned and non-perishable goods at their two bases.

Ten of the firm's fleet of delivery vans are now busy keeping food banks stocked up including one in Northwich which covers Cheshire West and Chester, as well as at Pwllheli, Colwyn Bay, Winsford, Telford and Newport.

Harlech’s digital project manager Ceri Brown, who works with the team to coordinate the supply chain, said: “Lockdowns have of course resulted in excess stock with last minute Government decisions resulting in additional wasted stock bought in to satisfy school contracts.

“We had to be prepared for the new school term in January but of course when schools were closed we were left with a huge amount of food which we needed to use.

“We are working closely with some incredible organisations to help people hit hardest by the pandemic and we wanted to share it out across our area of operation.

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“As the lockdowns continue, it’s a real struggle for our purchasing team managing stock levels, ensuring we have enough stock to meet demand for those customers that are open, but not over buying.”

Among those they supply is the Cheshire Food Hub in Northwich which serves food banks across the county from Chester in the west to Macclesfield in the east.

Jo Garner, of the charity Changing Lives Together, who co-ordinates the Food Hub, said: “We’re really grateful to Harlech because we realised there was going to be a huge demand from food banks across the county.

“During the summer we were feeding about 5,000 children with food boxes, mainly in Cheshire West but we’ve now moved to a bigger long-term base in Northwich which means we can look to buy in bulk and take donations of food from many sources.

“We can then ship it out to food banks from Chester in the west to Macclesfield in the east of the county and altogether we supply over 20 food banks in the sort of quantities they can use.”

Many of Harlech’s customers have had to close which has severely affected demand but others are fighting back where they can including the Hickory’s Smokehouse chain, who also have a base in Chester and who are operating a Hickory’s at Home delivery service across the UK while their restaurants are closed.

Care homes, who have been hit hardest by the pandemic, are also being supplied and Ceri added: “We are looking for some more places to deliver to, especially those that can take chilled and frozen food and food approaching it’s best-before date. Not every food bank takes that so we are also keen to hear from those that do.”

Harlech Foodservice has been in business since 1972 and employs around 200 staff and a fleet of vehicles to deliver more than 10,000 product lines.