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Tackling food waste and food poverty with The Felix Project

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Contents

Last Thursday Sophia and Olivia travelled to West London in order to volunteer for the morning shift and see first hand how The Felix Project is working with food suppliers and charities to reduce food waste and food poverty. With roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption wasted every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes - whilst 8.4 million UK families are struggling to put food on the table, equivalent to the whole population of London, we need to start looking at a solution [1].

The Felix Project collects food from supermarkets, wholesalers and other food suppliers, food that is fresh and nutritious but cannot be sold for various reasons. They then deliver that food free of charge to a range of charities across London who provide meals, snacks or food parcels for their clients, who include the elderly, the homeless, those with mental health issues, refugees and asylum seekers, families and children.

"We simply want to see good food go to good causes" - The Felix Project

Food Waste and Food Poverty with The Felix Project and Kafoodle

17/08/17

It was 9 am on a rainy London morning, turning the corner onto the Concord Business Centre four bright white and green vans stood out against the grey gloom. We stepped out of the drizzle and into a vibrant warehouse where fruit, vegetables and bakery items were organised on pallets ready for the day’s delivery

Food Waste and Food Poverty with The Felix Project and Kafoodle

Gaby, our driver for the day, has been volunteering for The Felix Project since January. She met us at the door, signed us in, ticked our names off the whiteboard and handed us a yellow jacket.

Food Waste and Food Poverty with The Felix Project and Kafoodle

We got stuck in right away loading the van, with many hands making light work we had it packed and ready to go in 10 minutes; we took up our passenger seats, buckled in and were on the road before 9.15am.

Food Waste and Food Poverty with The Felix Project and Kafoodle

Our route started with a collection at a local Marks and Spencer; we plugged the postcode into our van's designated phone and set off, excitement in the air. Olivia took charge of the itinerary sheet, which laid out the most logical route and declared any instructions given by the collection and drop-off points. Some like a phone call ahead, others explain the best places to park and the drop-offs often have requests for certain products such as baby food, fresh fruit or toiletries.On the drive we asked Gaby how much we could expect to be given at a collection point:“It can be anything, sometimes they have a little, sometimes a lot and sometimes they don't have anything and so it’s always good to ring beforehand, other times it can be a few trays, but wholesalers give us the most, great pallets of food!” Gaby wasn’t exaggerating; back at the warehouse, there was an entire pallet of microwavable rice packets, still boxed in packs of 12 and stacked 5 feet high.

Food Waste and Food Poverty with The Felix Project and Kafoodle

Arriving at our first collection point, just 5 minutes down the road, we descended into the underbelly of the Marks and Spencer, parking underground in the delivery bays. Waiting for us were five trays full of produce including onions, potatoes, eggs and even a pot of flowers. We took them down to the van ourselves, secured them and in less than five minutes were back on the road. The process was quick, simple and efficient, with very little input needed from the employees of Marks and Spencer themselves.Our next destination and our first drop off was at Solace Women’s Aid. Solace Women’s Aid is an independent charity working across London, providing life-saving support to more than 11,000 survivors of domestic and sexual violence a year, as well as focusing on prevention and early intervention services.As we arrived outside the accommodation, the women were already waiting with their shopping trolleys and carry-all bags. We opened up the side and rear doors of the van and let them take as much or as little of the food as they liked. Many had young children and so baby food, crisps and fruit were in high demand. They loaded their bags and trolleys until they were fit to burst, and watching their nervous tension shift to smiles and laughter left us all with a smile on our face and a warmth in our chest.We waved goodbye to the women at Solace Women’s Aid before plugging the next post-code into our phone’s satnav and heading off for a collection at a nearby Waitrose. Just as we had done at Marks and Spencer previously we parked in the loading bay and were met with a stack of produce trays laden with perfectly edible and unblemished fruit, vegetables and bakery products.The top tier was piled high with grapefruit and as I loaded it into the van it hit me how ridiculous our current wastage of fruit and vegetables is, with a number on a little plastic label determining when they are fit for the bin instead of common sense.

Food Waste and Food Poverty with The Felix Project and Kafoodle

Back at the warehouse, the vans were returning thick and fast and it was all hands on deck to get the collected produce in and sorted before the afternoon deliveries went out. With approximately 10 other volunteers we created a human chain transporting the boxes from the van and into the warehouse, the contents of each box were transferred to lined stackable crate and organised with others of its kind. Any truly mouldy, or food unfit for consumption was picked out and separated, leaving a stockpile of perfectly good food to be distributed to those that need it.When the hustle and bustle of sorting and organising were over we had a chance to catch up with Peter, a student who has been volunteering during his summer holidays.“There aren’t many charities that you can just get straight on board with, there’s usually a lot of forms to fill out, but here you can sign up online and that’s it, you’re in!”

Food Waste and Food Poverty with The Felix Project and Kafoodle

“There’s a really good team spirit, it’s so nice to volunteer in a group and everyone is so friendly.” The inclusive, warm and bubbly vibe of The Felix Project was something that really stood out to us; we had walked in as strangers and left as friends.The Felix Project is always looking for new volunteers. If you can spare a morning, an afternoon or an evening a week, volunteering with The Felix Project is a great way to give back to the community and help to reduce food waste and poverty.There are currently daytime shifts available at their depot in West London or evening shifts starting from their West London depot OR Central London. Wherever you are, whatever your schedule, hopefully, you can come and be a part of this amazing team! To find out more about volunteering click here.Alternatively, if you’re a business frustrated by food waste and would like to see your left-over produce go towards a good cause then don’t hesitate to get in contact!

Phone – 020 3489 8588

Email: info@thefelixproject.org

[1] http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/
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