Abbey to see you! – Why was Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville in Southampton?

Article by Rachel Adams for the Southern Daily Echo

24th August 2016

A WORLD FAMOUS actor took time out from his schedule to visit a charity tackling poverty in Hampshire.

Hugh Bonneville, who starred as aristocrat Lord Grantham in multi award-winning period drama Downton Abbey, visited Southampton-based food redistribution charity Scratch.

The actor, whose acting credits also include Notting Hill and The Vicar of Dibley, visited the charity after meeting operations manager Matthew Wilkinson at an event last November.

Since then the Golden Globe winner and double Emmy nominee actor kept in touch with the Mount Pleasant Road-based charity and has supported them via social media.

Yesterday he took his wife and son to find out more about the organisation’s work.

They were given a tour of the warehouse and Mr Wilkinson explained how the charity operates.

Mr Bonneville said: “What Fareshare is doing across the country is vital: rejected supermarket produce that would otherwise go to waste is redistributed to people who desperately need it.

“The team I met at the Southampton depot, led by Matt Willliamson and Claire Johns, is inspiring.

“Many of the volunteers have themselves been on the receiving end of what the charity can do: it can turn lives around.

“It’s crazy that so much perfectly edible food is being discarded but it’s great that Fareshare is minimising the impact.”

Mr Wilkinson said: “I think he was quite inspired. I don’t think he realised the scale of what we do. He said great work and well done.

“His wife asked which supermarkets we work with and was really impressed. And his son was asking what we do with our food waste – I told him we send it on to Aldemoor farm and one in Romsey.”

Scratch – Southampton City and Region Action To Combat Hardship – takes unwanted food from supermarkets and redistributes it to 140 charities across Hampshire in a mammoth operation that last year saw more than one million meals go to people in need.

In July 2015 alone 41 tonnes of food passed through the warehouse on Mount Pleasant Road, providing 97,000 meal to people across the county.

Mr Wilkinson, who helped set up the Southampton branch two years ago, said: “Hunger is often hidden and people often think there is shame attached to it.

“Mr Bonneville came with his son during the school holidays when there are no free school meals and one in four people skip their own meal so they can feed their children.

“Often families are reluctant to ask for help and think hunger is a third world problem, not a first world problem.”

Mr Wilkinson added that hunger is such a hidden issue celebrities like Mr Bonneville are key to raising awareness.

“We need people to start talking about hunger in the same way they talk about mental health or child abuse.”

Ninety per cent of the food Scratch gets from supermarkets Tesco, Co-Op, Nestle and ATM Fruits doesn’t even see the shop floor because of spelling mistakes on the packaging or the veg is the wrong shape. Scratch also provides furniture and Christmas gifts to those in need.

N.B. –  Hugh hasn’t won a Golden Globe, and he met Claire (not Matt) at an event this spring, not November.

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