City Harvest London

Food waste is a huge area of concern; particularly in a thriving city like London – it costs on average £200 a year per person; yet so many people in our city are struggling to feed themselves or their families. On average, per 5 bags of food shopping bought, 1 bag goes to waste in London. Food waste also generates approximately 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. It’s a huge issue that needs to be tackled.

City Harvest London is an organisation who are addressing these very issues, by collecting quality food surpluses from those who have it – be it restaurants, grocers, supermarkets, or hotels to name a few – and redistributing this to other groups or organisations who may need it, such as homeless shelters, community groups, or refugee support centres. By doing so, food waste is reduced, less ends up in landfills, and food is provided to those who truly need it. Furthermore, the money that would have been spent on food by these organisations can then be redirected towards funding something more useful for them. It’s a win-win. City Harvest redistribute 8 tonnes of food waste a week. 311,000 meals are delivered PER van each year. This is a worthy and necessary cause that I will be supporting on a monthly basis.

City Harvest London are helping to tackle the capital’s challenging problems of food waste and food surplus. I spent a day volunteering with the organisation. Entrance to the warehouse alone and seeing the sheer number of cartons and crates full of food, was a bit of a shock. This food, the majority of which was still edible, was all surplus food from supermarkets and suppliers, due to passing of the ‘best before’ dates.

The first half of my day was spent sorting through numerous cartons of healthy snack boxes and filling around 30 crates full, so that they could then directly be delivered to other organisations who could make use of these. Similarly, there were a vast number of bags of oranges for example, from a supermarket, which had all come in as surplus – thus we were tasked with separating out the few inedible oranges from the rest, so these could all go to people in need of food. City Harvest aim to send out fresh food such as fruit and vegetables as soon as possible, in order to truly maximise the edible life of such food products and ensure as much of it can be used as soon as possible.

The second half of the day was spent loading a mix of crates containing different foods, and delivering and unloading to a local community group who were preparing to cook for 80-100 people that night. They took crates of bread, potatoes and other vegetables, and salad bags. Knowing that all this food was not going to be thrown away and be put to good use instead, was wonderful. Another collection was made from a supplier of organic fruit and vegetable boxes, and again, there was a lot of surplus from this organisation. This was taken back to the City Harvest warehouse and ready to be sent out to anyone else who would need them.

Seeing the sheer quantities of waste was certainly an eye-opener, and City Harvest London are doing an excellent job in ensuring the best quality foods (most of which is fresh such as bread, fruit, and vegetables), can be put to the best use possible to avoid being thrown away. However, due to their freezing facilities in their warehouse, they also accept foods from restaurants (e.g. chicken from Nandos) which can then be frozen for whenever required. Their driving fleet are also very efficient and dedicated. I am keen to return. City Harvest is a growing organisation, and are always looking for volunteers, those with excess foods, or organisations who may require the food.


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