Friday the 13th proved to be extremely lucky for 50 diners in Newcastle, who were served a delicious four-course meal at the fifth annual Blackfriars Charity Banquet in aid of FareShare North East.

Michelin-recommended Blackfriars Restaurant opened up their banquet hall and kitchen to FareShare North East and Changing Lives volunteers this month to prepare and host the annual Blackfriars Charity Banquet to raise money for the North East franchise of national charity FareShare UK. On the day, over £1,200 was raised to help tackle food poverty and food waste in the region.

What makes this charity event even more special is the fact that approximately 80% of the food used to create the menu was FareShare produce: good and in-date food that would have otherwise went to landfill.

The spectacular four-course menu was created by a team of Changing Lives volunteers and clients who donated their time to learn new skills.

One such volunteer was Paul, who is a resident at one of Changing Lives’ accommodation projects in Newcastle. Paul was living on the streets when we first met him, following a childhood in care and stints in prison. He bravely shared his story with diners at Blackfriars, stating that his time volunteering at the restaurant had “brought back the hunger to find employment”.

The 50 diners were served a lavish four-course meal of: fish soup; mushrooms on toast; pork on a cabbage bean salad; and last but not least, ricotta and coffee mousse served with chocolate rice cakes and a chocolate drizzle.

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Our 50 diners were served a lavish four-course meal of: fish soup; mushrooms on toast; pork on a cabbage bean salad; and last but not least, ricotta and coffee mousse served with chocolate rice cakes and a chocolate drizzle.

The menu was testament to the inventiveness of Blackfriar’s chefs, as they were presented with a box of FareShare produce that would have otherwise been destined for landfill.

Adam Robson, the Cookery School chef at Blackfriars who worked with our volunteers for the Banquet, said:

“I didn’t quite know what to expect from the volunteers from Changing Lives who came to train, prepare, cook and serve at the Fareshare Charity Banquet.

I was humbled by their stories and impressed by the enthusiasm and willingness of Nikki, Kevin, Paul, Ash and James to tackle every single job I threw at them without complaint.  They left me with very little to do and their level of skill surprised and impressed me.  We all worked well together as a team and the preparation was first class and efficient.  I would welcome the trainees back into my kitchen on any occasion and happily work alongside them.”

As well as the money raised from ticket sales, FareShare North East will benefit from £250 raised from the raffle on the day of the banquet. Local hotel Hilton Newcastle Gateshead, and Charity Escapes, a fundraising charity that sells holidays where most, if not all, of the proceeds go to charities across the country, generously donated Champagne Afternoon Tea for Two at the Hilton’s Executive Lounge, overlooking the River Tyne.

The money raised at the fifth annual Blackfriars Banquet will support community groups like Choysez, a charity in Northumberland who are catering for increased food poverty in their local area.

‘The majority of our young people are from tough backgrounds. Our families were having to make difficult decisions between feeding their families and paying their bills. Food poverty was not something we used to have to consider a few years ago. But now we are providing up to three meals a day for our young people. They already suffer disadvantages like being in care or witnessing abuse. Giving them with the fuel they need to learn, grow and achieve is the least they deserve.’

FareShare North East currently supplies 120 community groups and charities, from Northumberland to Teesside, with nutritious food packs. In 2016, over half-a-million meals were provided to community groups across the region by FareShare North East.

Fareshare North East, which is managed by Changing Lives, collects high-quality in-date surplus food from supermarkets and suppliers in the region, and redistributes it to community groups, helping them provide hearty meals to breakfast clubs, older people’s lunch groups and more.

A huge thank you to Andy Hook (MD of Blackfriars), our volunteers who worked hard all week to prepare the meal, the staff of Blackfriars who offered a helping hand, and to everyone who spent their Friday afternoon with us. We hope you had a wonderful time.