Each month we highlight a London charity that is helping to make our neighbourhoods better. This time we talked to The Felix Project, whose aim is to reduce both food waste and food poverty in the capital. They told us about the enormous amount of food that winds up in landfills and how their work instead aims to get it to people who need it.
Tell us about the charity.
The Felix Project collects food from suppliers and delivers it free of charge to charities. It’s a wonderfully simple model that stops hundreds of tonnes of food from being wasted in the fight against food poverty, and it’s all done by volunteers. Supermarkets, wholesalers and other suppliers save their surplus food, which volunteers collect in Felix vans. Warehouse volunteers sort the food to meet different charities’ needs. Volunteers deliver food direct to charities, including refuges, homeless shelters, community kitchens and schools, so it gets to the people who need it most.
What was the inspiration for The Felix Project?
The Felix Project was founded by Justin and Jane Byam Shaw in memory of their son Felix, who died suddenly from meningitis. Felix was saddened by the plight of children less fortunate than him going hungry. As a way to commemorate their son, Justin and Jane set up The Felix Project based on the Oxford Food Bank model, to help vulnerable members of society get access to food using surplus from industry.
Why is the Project’s work necessary?
There is a crazy mismatch in the amount of good, edible food that goes to landfill and the huge and growing problem of food poverty. In London, nearly 400,000 people regularly go hungry, yet in the UK around 223,000 tonnes of edible food go to landfill or anaerobic digestion plant every year. Charities do not have the resources to collect food, and food suppliers on tight margins have little incentive to ensure every potato or carrot is used.
There is more than enough food to go round, and while we already deliver food that’s used for over a million meals a year, this scarcely makes a dent in the food surplus mountain. Month by month, we collect more food, to get it to more charities, and in December last year we started piloting a programme to provide surplus food to primary school children in some of the most deprived areas of the city.
What are any obstacles you face?
Getting enough food, funds and volunteers pretty much sums it up.
What are your funding sources?
Individual donations, corporate supporters, trusts and foundations fund our operations. Their generosity has allowed us to grow from one van and a depot in West London in 2016 to our current fleet of 11 vans, two depots and satellite operations in Heathrow and central London. A Crowdfunder campaign raised money towards our North London depot. Evening Standard and Independent readers raised over a million pounds for The Felix Project through the ‘Help a Hungry Child’ Christmas appeal, so we can set up food deliveries to 120 primary schools within the next two years, benefiting more than 60,000 children and their families.
Do you hold any fundraising events?
There are fundraising events throughout the year. For the Evening Standard and Independent’s ‘Help a Hungry Child’ appeal, there were auctions, a telethon day, and last month a group of 56 runners took part in The Big Half, London’s inaugural half marathon.
Looking forward, the Quintessentially Foundation’s annual sponsored cycling event is raising funds for The Felix Project. The Bike Ride is a four-day event, cycling over 500 kilometres from the Austrian ski resort of Innsbruck to Ljubljana, the picturesque capital of Slovenia, between the 27th of June and the 2nd of July 2018. It’s an opportunity for serious cyclists to enjoy the extreme physical demands of the ride, impeccable organisation and great camaraderie with other riders. You can find out more here.
How can people get involved?
There are lots of opportunities to get involved, and we love hearing from people who want to help.
Our main volunteer roles are to collect and deliver food as drivers, driver assistants and warehouse assistants, and we are also piloting a ‘powered by you’ green scheme, for cyclists and walkers. If you can spare a morning, an afternoon or a couple of hours in the evening each week, volunteering with us is a great way to support your local community. You can register with us to be a volunteer by visiting our website here.
Fundraising events can be great fun, and very effective at raising awareness of how people can get involved as well as raising money. Supporters have come up with some great ideas, including Ready Steady Cook events and collection buckets at cricket matches and choir concerts. And, as you’d expect, you can make a donation via our website. Each and every contribution of time and money is hugely appreciated by everyone at Felix and the charities we support.
For more information, visit the Felix Project’s website.