Food For London Now campaign: Help us feed the capital

David Cohen
·7-min read
Daniel Hambury
Daniel Hambury

The Evening Standard launches an appeal today to fund the delivery of food to poor, elderly and vulnerable Londoners who are unable to afford enough to eat or cannot get out because they and their families are self-isolating and at high risk of losing their lives to coronavirus.

We have teamed up with The Felix Project — a start-up charity we helped launch in 2016 and now London’s largest surplus food distributor — to deliver produce to community hubs that will be set up in every London borough, with the first bases expected to be operational from as early as next week. The Felix deliveries will be part of a hugely ambitious pan-London plan to feed the vulnerable that has been initiated by the London Food Alliance, a new organisation set up to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak and comprising the city’s three biggest food surplus distributors — The Felix Project, FareShare and City Harvest.

The project was kick-started on Wednesday with a video conference call that involved more than 100 people calling in, including representatives of every London borough and City Hall.

This collaborative city-wide operation is an urgent, brilliant innovation that is set to become the fourth emergency service of our capital.

But without financial support it will flounder. Charities like The Felix Project deliver 10 tonnes of food, or 22,000 meals, a day to the needy, including to hungry children who rely on free school meals, but they have seen their funding drop off a cliff since the outbreak of the virus, so their capacity to carry out this crucial work will need our support.

That is why we are calling on companies, charitable foundations and readers whose jobs are secure to donate money to help us feed London and save lives.

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To spearhead the appeal, we are putting in a substantial donation ourselves. With immediate effect, a £350,000 grant from the endowment of the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund has been sanctioned to help fund The Felix Project at this unprecedented time.

Kate Markey, CEO of The London Community Foundation, the charity that manages the Dispossessed Fund, said: “I can today confirm that the LCF trustees board has agreed this is an extraordinary urgent need.

The Felix Project will be given the money in a lump sum to go towards their additional running costs to meet demands from the coronavirus emergency.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The Evening Standard has a proud history of standing up for those most in need, and I salute the Food for London Now campaign which will make a real difference to vulnerable people.

“My Government is doing everything we can to offer support, but this scheme embodies the spirit of generosity and compassion we need from everyone to meet the challenges presented by coronavirus.” Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, immediately backed our campaign. He said: “In a city as prosperous as London, everyone should have enough food to feed themselves and their families, but unfortunately the coronavirus outbreak means some Londoners are facing even greater difficulties.

“It’s commendable these organisations are joining forces to help ensure surplus food isn’t wasted and reaches those who need it most. I urge Londoners to support this crucial initiative.”

The new London Food Alliance plan will operate as follows:

  • Community hubs will be set up by each borough from next week to receive and distribute surplus food to the elderly, poor and vulnerable.

  • Boroughs will identify one or more hubs, likely to be located in community centres, charities or foodbanks.

  • The food will be delivered into the hub by the three members of the London Food Alliance.

  • Felix has taken responsibility for co-ordinating deliveries to 14 of London’s 33 boroughs, FareShare to 12 and City Harvest to seven.

  • Each borough will provide the three food distributors with a single point of contact and will identify need, including the type of food each venue is safely able to take (fresh, frozen, long-life).

  • An army of local volunteers will be deployed at each hub to receive the food, package up food parcels and arrange the “last mile” deliveries to the doorsteps of the vulnerable

Mark Curtin, CEO of The Felix Project, said: “Our role is to pick up large volumes of nutritious surplus food from the commercial sector and deliver it to community hubs to ensure there is enough food for vulnerable people for as long as this health crisis ensues.

“The food will be a complete range and will include fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen goods and long-life produce. We have built up an incredible supply network, logistical capability and superb infrastructure to make this operation work, but the scale of it will undoubtedly be a challenge.

“We will be working all hours doing our bit — and it would be wonderful if your readers can get behind us so we can do this job for London.”

Pierre-Marc Bouloux, professor of endocrinology at University College London, who has agreed to be a food safety adviser to our campaign, said: “The public can be reassured that there seems to be no evidence of anyone getting Covid-19 from handling or eating food.

“I advise that normal safe practice needs to be followed in handling food, which includes fresh produce being washed both at the hub taking delivery of the food and by the end user.

“Now that we are asking people to stay at home, the benefits of sunlight will be denied to some for a period of time so we need to supplement vitamin D. Healthy eating becomes harder at times like this and so these deliveries of healthy fresh food, rather than tinned produce, become ever more vital.”

Four years ago as part of our Food for London campaign, we helped launch Felix, with just one van and an employee supplying a handful of charities.

Now their fleet of 22 vans is run by 22 staff and manned by over 1,500 inspirational volunteers who shift enough food to provide 22,000 meals a day.

But with all their planned fundraising events cancelled, they will now need our financial backing.

Donate at virginmoneygiving.com/fund/FoodforLondonNOW

How you can help

We have launched an appeal to fund the delivery of desperately needed food to poor, elderly and vulnerable Londoners who are unable to afford food or are confined to their homes and at high risk of losing their lives from catching the coronavirus.

Monies raised will go to our campaign partner, The Felix Project, London’s biggest food surplus distributor, who are part of a co-ordinated food distribution effort taking place across London.
The appeal will be under the auspices of the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund and run by The London Community Foundation, which has managed the Fund since its launch 10 years ago.

How the scheme works

What is happening?

A new initiative called The London Food Alliance has been set up by the capital’s three largest food surplus distributors — The Felix Project, FareShare and City Harvest — to pick up nutritious surplus food from suppliers and deliver it in bulk to community hubs in each borough

How will food get to people?

Each borough will create hubs to receive the surplus food, divide it into food parcels and deliver them to the doorstep of vulnerable Londoners

Who will get food?

Boroughs are in touch with local charities, foodbanks and community centres as well as the Government to ascertain who is most vulnerable and in need

How have the food redistributors carved up London?

The Felix Project is responsible for co-ordinating surplus food supply across: Barnet, Camden, Ealing, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Islington, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, and Westminster. FareShare will co-ordinate: Barking & Dagenham, Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Greenwich, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Newham, Southwark, Sutton, Wandsworth. City Harvest will do: Brent, City of London, Hammersmith & Fulham, Hounslow, Kensington & Chelsea, Kingston, Richmond. Actual deliveries to boroughs might be made by any of the three providers, based on what is most efficient on the day.