Environmental charity Hubbub is marking three years of Food Connect, a food redistribution service that works with businesses to deliver good quality surplus food to community fridges and groups to share.
Since its launch in 2020, more than 1,000 tonnes of food have been redistributed through the service across Milton Keynes and London, the equivalent of over 2.5 million meals.
Hubbub set up Food Connect to create a simpler donation experience for food businesses and to share the small amounts of surplus that often go to waste to local community groups. The service has resulted in fewer missed collections and reduces pressure on community groups.
It is estimated that 35% of the UK’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from food and drink production, with huge amounts of resources going in to growing, processing, packing, storing and transporting food. Despite this, 6.4 million tonnes of edible food is wasted in the UK every year by retailers, manufacturers, caterers, restaurants and in people’s homes.
Open to retailers, redistribution depots, manufacturers, small producers and hospitality businesses, Food Connect acts as a single point of contact for donations. Using zero-emission vehicles – e-cargo bikes and e-vans – couriers are equipped to take food away quickly, whatever the quantity, and share with local residents. So far, seven electric vehicles have travelled 80,000 clean miles and 15 green part-time jobs have been created.
Following a successful pilot in Milton Keynes, the service is now also operating in three locations 1 across London, and a total of 16 community groups have benefitted from the food shared. One partner organisation running the service is Sustainable Merton, an environmental charity in Southwest London, whose aim is to inspire, mobilise and enable their local community to take action on climate change and protect the environment for future generations.
Jude King, Project Manager at Sustainable Merton says: “Our Food Connect e-bike, trailer and riders have enabled us to increase our weekly food collections and reduced the number of short car journeys to nearly none. With two dedicated riders we have been able to build better relationships with the stores who donate and also look at other ways in which we can help the local community without burning petrol. With dedicated riders we are able to respond quickly to last minute offers of food and requests for help.”
As Food Connect marks three years of success, Hubbub is looking at where Food Connect could go next in the UK. Food Connect operates with support from Starbucks, made possible by donations from the Starbucks 5p cup charge, which is applied when a customer chooses to use a single-use cup.
Helen Innes, Creative Partner at Hubbub, says: “When Hubbub launched Food Connect in 2020, we wanted to address the five biggest challenges our community groups had outlined as barriers to sharing surplus food successfully. These were reliability, quality and quantity of food, timings, travel and costs. By creating Food Connect, Hubbub has been able to work with communities to create a streamlined approach to food redistribution that is proving to work”.
Food Connect is recognised as a Circular Food Pioneer Project in London. The project was awarded the Global Good Awards Bronze award for COVID Crisis Champions of 2021 for supporting vulnerable households with over 2000 food parcels and offering a lifeline to isolated people, proving its agility to respond to urgent community need.
To find out more about the service, Hubbub has published a three-year impact report, which can be found at hubbub.org.uk