Giving food another life

Do you get that guilty feeling when you throw away food? “Such a shame!” “What a waste of money!” You’ve had these thoughts, too, right? Well, it’s not just at home that people worry about food waste. It’s also a big concern for the UK food service sector, where 920,000 tonnes of food is thrown away each year (equivalent to 1.3 billion meals, or 1 in 6 meals served*). This is bad news for the environment, as the food is usually sent to landfill where it rots and releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The most upsetting thing is that three-quarters of the food thrown away could have been eaten, such as batch-prepared dishes (think pasta, trays of veg and cakes), surplus sandwiches, and off-cuts that are still perfectly good for consumption.

To add insult to injury, thousands of Londoners are going hungry each day. A number organisations – homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and veteran centres to name a few – work diligently to feed those in need, often struggling to source the ingredients they need to meet the demand. Infuriating when we often have the opposite problem in the food and hospitality sector! It seemed the perfect solution, then, when City Harvest came to London to start a pilot in 2015. City Harvest is a charity that collects nutritious surplus food from restaurants, as well as from grocers, wholesalers and caterers, and then delivers it to organisations that provide meals to vulnerable people. Connecting the dots at last!

City Harvest is set apart from other food rescue organisations in that it has the capability to collect prepared, but perfectly good, restaurant food. Other food rescue charities mainly focus on collecting dry store goods from food retailers. Recognising the gap in the market for such a charity, Good Business facilitated a partnership between City Harvest and the Sustainable Restaurant Association whilst in its pilot phase. SRA member restaurants became allied with City Harvest so they can now divert surplus food responsibly, should they have any. In addition, the Belazu Ingredient Company (a client of Good Business) saw City Harvest’s potential to do good, and decided to support the charity by proffering extra delivery vans and drivers to transport food between donors and recipients.

City Harvest rescues around 2 tonnes of food weekly. Since it began operating in 2015, it has picked up approximately 56 tonnes of food (the equivalent of 130,000 meals) from donors, and this figure continues to rise as more donors come on board and the efficiency of operations improves.

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*WRAP data