Leading food redistribution charity City Harvest has started a new project with a unit here at the Market.
Since the first week in January, City Harvest has been renting unit B72 on an initial trial of three months, to use as a satellite for short-term storage and collections.
The charity collects surplus food and provides meals for the homeless and others in food poverty in and around London. The market community already supports City Harvest by providing near date and expired produce free of charge, however, there may be an opportunity to enhance those links now that it is based on the market.
Richard Barker is the face of the project for City Harvest in NCGM and had enjoyed a busy first couple of weeks when we caught up with him. “We’re here at 2am every morning. We collect product and do a run to our head office in Acton to drop it off and then we come back for more. People know we are here, they’ve got our number and they all want to help. As soon as we get our business cards printed, we’ll do a full walk around and network the whole place,” he said.
Richard was homeless himself for a period when he was young. So, he’s seen the challenge facing City Harvest and the people the charity helps from both sides. “I’ve been a driver for the last two and a half years and I’ve seen the amount of good these donations do for people who are really struggling.
“Everyone here is really friendly. They all care and want to do the right thing. It’s old school and I like that. Obviously, I have good manners, which helps! I’d never asked for anything before I came here, but I know where it’s going and it means a lot to me.”
City Harvest records the weight of every donation, from every trader, so people will know how much they have given over time. There’s a cost-saving element for the market too, as every tonne of organic waste that is disposed of through the market’s zero-to-landfill waste management system has a cost attached.
Both Richard (picture below right) and his colleague Mike Motl (left) have worked in a similar vein at other wholesale markets. Mike says: “Markets have always been very good to us. Being based on site is useful though – it’s nice to have that connection with people, so we can tell them exactly where the food is going and how it is helping.”
Many of the businesses on the market already donated surplus fresh produce to other registered charities and one very important element of the City Harvest presence is that any other registered charity collecting from site will also be able to go to City Harvest unit and collect produce.
The charity’s mission is to reduce food insecurity and protect the planet by diverting quality, nutritious, edible surplus food which would otherwise go to waste and redistributing it to those facing food poverty. Its longer-term vision is to give all people in the city access to fresh, nourishing food, while ensuring that no good food is wasted from within the food supply chain. By re-distributing that food, it aims to make food businesses more sustainable and more impactful.