A Milton Keynes initiative which saw e-cargo bikes used to redistribute surplus food delivered the equivalent of a quarter of a million meals between June 2020 and February 2021. The project’s success means that there are now plans to bring Food Connect to new locations.
Food Connect centres on London-based charity Hubbub's Community Fridge Network. These are spaces where anyone who lives nearby, including businesses, can exchange surplus food.
The network relies on volunteers collecting food from retailers, but collection times and the volumes on offer often present a challenge. Food Connect is therefore an effort to bridge the ‘final mile’ between food retailers and Community Fridges.
The trial was run from the Wolverton Community Fridge in Milton Keynes. It was supported by funding from CAF Venturesome, Costa Coffee, The National Lottery Community Fund and Milton Keynes Council through the eCargo Bike Grant Fund, while Bosch eBike Systems provided an Urban Arrow Cargo XL and a Tern GSD with a large trailer.
Around 109 tonnes of food was saved from going to waste. This food was associated with at least 36 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, while the use of electric vehicles prevented 1.7 tonnes of transport emissions. The pilot also created six jobs.
MK Citizen reports that not only is Food Connect set to continue in Milton Keynes, there are also plans to branch out to other parts of the country.
Project co-ordinator Helen Innes said: “Food Connect has enabled us to provide food to around 800 local families a week and has also reduced the pressure on the volunteers who would be making these journeys by foot, taxi or car to pick up the surplus food.
"The project has helped us establish a more reliable supply, including a wider variety of food to share and was invaluable in allowing us to support shielding households last year. We are so thrilled with the results and look forward to helping the service expand. We’re particularly keen to get more local retailers onboard.”
Aoife Allen, Head of Food at Hubbub said: “We are thrilled to have saved 109 tonnes of food and at the same time supported the need for cleaner air. We believe that Food Connect can provide an agile, replicable solution to the final-mile-challenge by delivering great surplus food to community groups who can share it really quickly.
"The food surplus sector in the UK is very effective but there are gaps that we believe Food Connect can fill. We want to work with businesses and others in the redistribution space to make it as efficient and beneficial to the community as possible. We’d really welcome support from the business community to help make this a reality.”
If you’d like to help out, you can get in touch via the Hubbub website.