Let’s feed people with Clerkenwell’s surplus food

By Dominika Langová

Seven million tonnes. That’s how much food was wasted in the UK in 2015. While most food waste comes from households, business waste still makes up to 13 per cent of this load, which includes the food stalls throwing away unsold portions on Exmouth and Leather Lane markets, Clerkenwell’s hotels throwing away the rest of their bespoke afternoon tea, and restaurants getting rid of uneaten brunches. Add all the rest of the food businesses in the district – as well as all its supermarkets – and that’s a lot of surplus food.

The issue of food wastage has been noted, and some chain cafes and restaurants are trying to tackle the problem by collecting food. The Pret Foundation, founded in 1995, gives surplus food to charities who then donate it to the homeless. Other restaurants use apps like Too Good To Go or Olio to enable customers to buy food before use-by dates with a discount, thereby avoiding wastage.

But there are also charities that collect food directly from businesses. In Clerkenwell, Rhythms of Life, Food For All and Feast are all active, with volunteers collecting food in rickshaws, electric vans and cars. According to Andrew Faris, the founder of Rhythms of Life, some businesses reach out to the charities by themselves, while others need to be asked for their surplus food to be donated.

Very often, volunteers then cook meals from the ingredients and together with other food serve it to the homeless or simply anyone in need. People queue every day at places including Trafalgar Square to get one of the thousands of meals the charities give away for free.

Nevertheless, there are still a large number of businesses in Clerkenwell throwing food away, and there are coordination issues for charities who, says Robert Edwards, administrator of Food For All, only have limited resources in terms of staff and vehicles.

Sometimes, when a charity misses the pick-up in Gail’s bakery on Exmouth Market, a local comes to take the wasted food to those in need. According to Michael, the assistant manager, she comes a couple times a week to ask for what has been left behind.

There are plenty of ways to help. If you don’t have the time to pick up and distribute or to volunteer, you can make a donation to one of the charities to help with the costs. This way you can help people and the environment:

Visit rhythmsoflife.org.uk

Visit foodforall.com

Visit feastwithus.org.uk