‘Hop on board’: Campaign calls on businesses to back food distribution initiative

Apr 02, 2021

MORE businesses have been urged to join a campaign redistributing surplus healthy food to vulnerable households after the success of a pilot project in Milton Keynes.

Environmental charity Hubbub used electric cargo bikes and an electric van to deliver a total 109 tonnes of surplus food – the equivalent of almost 260,000 meals – from retailers, restaurants and food manufacturers.

Now the Food Connect project is set to roll out across the UK.

Despite significant progress on reducing waste across sectors over recent years, sustainability charity WRAP estimates that a vast quantity of surplus remains in the UK food system. Food at this stage is close to its end of life and redistribution often depends on collections by small voluntary organisations.   

Food awaiting redistribution at the Wolverton Community Fridge

The Food Connect pilot supported community groups across Milton Keynes and was hosted by the Wolverton Community Fridge which was one of the first to open in the UK in 2017.  The pilot also partnered with the national food redistribution network FareShare and Milton Keynes Council.  

Aoife Allen, head of food at Hubbub said: “We want to work with businesses and others in the redistribution space to make it as efficient and beneficial to the community as possible.  We would really welcome support from the business community to help make this a reality.” 

The Food Connect pilot took place between September and February this year. 

“Food Connect has enabled us to provide food to around 800 local families a week and has also reduced the pressure on the volunteers who would be making these journeys by foot, taxi or car to pick up the surplus food,” said Food Connect’s project co-ordinator Helen Innes.

“The project has helped us establish a more reliable supply, including a wider variety of food to share and was invaluable in allowing us to support shielding households last year. 

“We are so thrilled with the results and look forward to helping the service expand. We are particularly keen to get more local retailers on board.” 

The pilot was supported by funding from CAF Venturesome, Costa Coffee, Bosch eBike Systems, The National Lottery Community Fund, and Milton Keynes Council through the eCargo Bike Grant Fund, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered by Energy Saving Trust.

Ms Allen added: “We believe that Food Connect can provide an agile, replicable solution to the final-mile challenge by delivering great surplus food to community groups who can share it really quickly. The food surplus sector in the UK is very effective but there are gaps that we believe Food Connect can fill.”

Lee Porter from FareShare said: “The Milton Keynes trial has gone brilliantly, demonstrating a clear increase in the amount of great quality food redistributed into the local community. The ‘last mile’ is always challenging and to see reductions in both food waste and emissions really is a double win.”

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