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London food redistribution charity sees major donations from FS industry

London charity City Harvest, which redistributes food to charities across London which make healthy food for the cities most vulnerable, has recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to help with essential funding and has reported today on the response.

Since 17 March, the charity has been getting 20 tonnes of food a day. To put this in perspective, it usually gets 35 tonnes a week. By Friday 20 March, when the majority of restaurants in London had closed due to COVID-19, food increased from 23.5 tonnes on Tuesday 24 March, from 9.7 tonnes on the previous Tuesday.

At least a tonne of chicken from Nandos has been stacked into boxes, prime steaks from Hawksmoor, and burgers from Lidgate. These are just a few of the companies desperate to ensure their food was not going to waste.

The charity's main suppliers are usually Innocent, Bookers and Fruitful Office, as well as smaller retailers, but these have been eclipsed by the sheer number of restaurants, caterers and companies donating food.

Barings Investments sent 100kg of fruit and vegetables, and Hammersmith Library sent half a tonne of fruit and veg. There has also been over two van loads of food from Facebook's onsite staff restaurants.

They have had calls from some of the top foodservice businesses and chefs in the country, including Honest Burgers, Wasabi, Unilever and McDonalds.

The core team at the warehouse consists of nine drivers, three warehouse managers, one logistics director, one volunteer coordinator and COO Nikki Tadema.

On average the charity has five volunteers who come in per week - due to the sudden influx of food it has been calling for more volunteers through its social media channels and websites - there are now 20 volunteers a day.

Volunteers have come from a variety of backgrounds, most have lost their jobs or seen their clients drop off. Maris was head waiter at a fine dining French restaurant in Covent Garden, which was meant to open last week - he is yet to discover if he qualifies for any pay from the Government. Roe was studying Leith’s Cooking School and the courses have been suspended indefinitely.

Then there is Rebecca, Island Poke's Events Coordinator, who has seen all the events cancelled for the foreseeable future. Many live near the warehouse and walk each day to help.

When the pallets of food come in they are sorted by Use by date and divided into dairy, fruit, vegetables, pre cooked food and kitchen staples - they usually see milk, bread, vegetables and meat - for the past week they have had boxes of fresh noodles from Bone Daddies, whole salmon from Wasabi, 500 loaves of bread from Gails and fresh juices from Eat.

The van drivers usually distribute 70 van loads of food per week and this has now doubled per week to over 140 van loads. The charity has calculated it has saved 110 tonnes of food this week and helped to create 255,000 meals - up from the 9 million meals created from January 2020 to date.

The warehouse is starting to resume a small sense of normality, the shelves that were 10 deep are now three and the team is no longer firefighting to ensure that food isn’t being wasted, but is freezing it for future use.