/blog/The Neighbourly blog - Neighbourly Read the Neighbourly blog for all our news, advice and resources about fundraising, volunteering and surplus campaigns
Blog | neighbourly

Marks and Spencer, food surplus & community

mems

Marks and Spencer has for a long time been dedicated to making a difference with its ‘Plan A’ vision for a sustainable future. Through this programme, first launched over 10 years ago in 2007, they strive to be a business that has a positive impact on wellbeing, communities and the planet. The program focuses on social and environmental issues and ensuring that by 2025 they are a circular business, generating zero waste – a bold goal that involves all their operations, supply chains and customers.

Since 2012, M&S have been zero-waste-to-landfill across their owned operations in the UK and Republic of Ireland and have made the prevention of food waste a priority. They were the first major retailer to provide live updates via the Neighbourly website on the number of tonnes of surplus food redistributed, and the first to manage a nationwide redistribution scheme through a single platform.

This type of thinking isn’t new to M&S. They’ve always been an innovator and leader in their food operations – pioneering boil-in-the-bag and sachet meals in 1972, then creating Britain’s first chilled instant meal, the much-loved chicken Kiev in 1979. The ease of not having to cook up a meal from scratch suited the working woman and the popularity of the ready-meal soared – an innovation that most certainly changed how we ate as we entered the ‘80s.

Arguably their greatest invention remains the adored packaged sandwich, created by M&S in the spring of 1980. Packaged sandwiches are now a staple in our lives and the industry is booming, its annual worth estimated at £8 billion – so it may seem surprising that the idea had never been tried before, but it hadn’t. Packaged sandwiches were a huge novelty when they started being sold on the Marks and Spencer shop floor for as little as 43p just 37 years ago. Some thought them outlandish – who would pay for something they could just as easily make at home? But they sold, and sold fast. The way that we lived and worked was changing and soon every supermarket was following the trend. In the early 90s, the head of their sandwich department developed M&S’s first dedicated “food to go” section, with its own tills and checkouts, in Manchester. The innovation was a huge success and prefigured the layout of most contemporary supermarkets.

But as we know, the advent of the modern-day supermarket, combined with the changing lifestyles and expectations of consumers has bought about one of today’s biggest environmental challenges – food waste. The total estimate for UK food waste stands at a staggering 10.2 million tonnes. Of that, 7.1 million tonnes are thrown away in our homes – with 70% classed as ‘avoidable’ (meaning every year we put 5.0 million tonnes of food that could have been eaten into our bins, worth an estimated £15 billion). Marks and Spencer are working to address this problem through advancements in the products and packaging that they sell. They engage their customers and encourage them to store and use food more efficiently – for example shoppers have been given tips on how to avoid food waste and the clarity of food date labelling has been improved.

Of the remaining 3.1 million tonnes of UK food waste, 260,000 tonnes come from retail, 1.85 million from manufacturers and around 1 million from hospitality and food service. This waste has been the focus of intense scrutiny in recent years, which has successfully resulted in a 50% increase in the amount redistributed to good causes in just two years, according to WRAP. This brings the 2017 total to the equivalent of 102 million meals redistributed – to the value of £130 million.

Marks & Spencer’s approach to food waste is comprehensive and they have committed to reducing food waste by 20% by 2020 and becoming a zero-waste business by 2025. Their primary aim is to reduce the amount of waste created in the first place and they’ve invested in new stock forecasting and planning systems as well as comprehensive supplier engagement schemes. They’ve also increased the volume of short life food sold at a discount to customers and this process now consistently clears most of the products that would otherwise have been disposed of. After redistributing whatever possible to good causes through the Neighbourly platform, any remaining surplus goes to anaerobic digestion (a process that turns food waste into electricity – some of which is bought back to power M&S stores) – absolutely nothing goes to landfill. 

To date, M&S stores have donated around 5.2 million meals to local communities through their food surplus scheme. This includes surplus baked goods, cupboard items, fruit, vegetables and chilled food (meat, dairy, fish, frozen food, ready meals, juices, sandwiches). They also donate flowers and non-food surplus like cleaning products, laundry items and toiletries. Their stores are connected to more than 850 local charities across the UK where meals, food parcels and a helping hand are provided to those who need it.

Through Neighbourly, every store is partnered with a nearby group such as a community café, foodbank or homeless shelter that receives daily alerts to let them know when surplus is available. Thanks to these donations, charity partners can benefit from their resources going a little further, enabling them to provide fresh items, fruit and vegetables to people in the community who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them. The stores also provide wider support to their local charities through their year-long Local Charity Fundraising and annual volunteering programmes.

Here are just a few of the local causes that M&S support through Neighbourly:

Whitechapel Centre is the leading homelessness and housing charity in Liverpool supporting people to get back on their feet and providing them with a hot meal and a kind smile. Local M&S stores (and other retailers) give their unsold food to the centre so that this service can be provided. The charity also gives advice on housing, employment and basic facilities for the homeless. They are committed to helping people who are sleeping rough, living in hostels or struggling to manage their accommodation find a home and learn essential independent living skills. They work closely with each individual to get them the right help.

Norwich Food Hub collect surplus food from many stores in the area to redistribute it to community groups and local charities across the city. The hub was born from Director Rowan van Tromp’s passion surrounding environmental sustainability within the food supply chain and realisation that there was a lack of this type of service in the area. They receive and sort the food surplus before redistributing it to the vulnerable people across the city who are living at or below the breadline. Sadly, food poverty is a large issue in Norwich but the food hub’s work to redistribute surplus food is helping to lessen the problem.

In Yeovil, the community meals service delivers hot meals for the elderly or those who struggle to cook for themselves. Their meals are homemade and delivered by volunteers to people who might be suffering with dementia or physical issues that prevent them from cooking. Through this service carers are given a break from the task of preparing dinner by having a hot meal delivered instead, taking the strain away and brightening people’s days.


Nowadays we find that most businesses are actually doing more to change on the inside than many people appreciate, and M&S continues to lead from the front as customer expectations about what kind of companies they want to support change. As M&S colleagues continue to challenge why more can't be done, we at Neighbourly are continually working on solutions that connect their contribution so that customers notice and want to know how they can join in. We're extremely proud of our 4+ year partnership with M&S and how we've proved that a national business can indeed make a local difference in every community it serves.

For more information on Plan A, have a look at corporate.marksandspencer.com/plan-a


How to get involved in the M&S surplus scheme

Marks and Spencer are continuing to expand their food surplus scheme, making sure they can donate as much food surplus as possible and make a positive impact in the community. If you have a charity or community cause that could regularly collect surplus, you should join the Neighbourly platform and create a free page for your group. Your organisation will need a Level 2 (or equivalent) food hygiene certified no longer than 2.5 years ago. For chilled collections, you’ll need cool bags or boxes, freezers for storage and volunteers to collect after store closing in the evening.


Jane

Content Manager

Sep 18, 2018

Neighbourly calls for charities to join its food surplus scheme

nw bristol foodbank

PRESS RELEASE, 19 September 2018

Giving platform Neighbourly has today put out a call inviting charities, food projects, schools and community groups to join its free food surplus redistribution scheme. Neighbourly is the redistribution partner to retailers and manufacturers including Marks & Spencer, Lidl and Danone

Through the Neighbourly platform, the equivalent of more than 7.5 million meals has been distributed to over 1,500 charities and community projects in local communities across the UK and Ireland.

Now Neighbourly is extending the scheme to more communities whose residents and families are suffering from food poverty and insecurity. The latest research from WRAP shows that food redistribution from commercial sources (retailers, manufacturers and hospitality and food services businesses) has increased by 50% in just two years but that there is potential for increased redistribution. One of the things that is needed for this to happen is for more charities to be aware that this resource is available to them and join up to benefit from the scheme. 

Neighbourly’s own research – from surveying its food surplus recipients – shows just how important receiving surplus is to them. On average, charities reported that they save an estimated average of £161 a month through these food donations and 90% find the Neighbourly food surplus schemes beneficial or extremely beneficial. 

Food surplus available for daily collection includes fruit and veg, bakery products and ambient food (food which can be safely stored at room temperature in a sealed container). It is also possible for charities to collect chilled items from some stores - dairy, meat, fish, chilled drinks and packaged ready meals, as long as they can meet certain criteria for safe collection, transportation and storage of chilled goods. 

“While the Neighbourly platform has distributed the equivalent of more than 7.5 million meals over the past three years, it’s imperative that we keep building knowledge across the sector that this valuable resource is available” Nick Davies, Neighbourly’s founder, added. “We invite charities of all shapes and sizes to join, from small community groups right through to larger charity networks, who in particular are able to put chilled items to good use. So much of the food surplus supply chain is as yet untapped. The Neighbourly food surplus scheme is free and easy for charities and community food projects to get involved with, so we encourage them to sign up.”  


To sign up to receive food surplus, charities and not-for-profits should to register with Neighbourly or email food@neighbourly.com. Groups must have a food hygiene certificate in order to collect the surplus.

 

Chilled food donations criteria 

In order to collect chilled food donations (meat, fish, dairy, ready meals, chilled drinks), charities must be able to meet the following criteria:

  • Level 2 (or equivalent) food hygiene certificate and/or FSA rating (4 stars or above) certified no longer than 2.5 years ago
  • Cool-boxes or cool-bags or refrigerated vehicles for transportation of donated items
  • Fridge/freezer space for immediate storage at premises

 

Jane

Content Manager

Sep 18, 2018

New calculations for reporting on the amounts of food surplus redistributed

Image

Most organisations involved in the redistribution of surplus food, including Governments and the charity WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) are currently reporting on the amounts of food that are redistributed – usually in tonnage and a conversion of that tonnage into its ‘meals’ equivalent. On the Neighbourly website we record surplus in tonnes, and then convert this to number of meals to display on our company and branch pages. The Courtauld 2025 Redistribution Working Group, led by WRAP, have recently agreed that there is inconsistency in how the amount of food redistributed is being conveyed by the different parties involved and that this should be addressed.

There are two main ways the amounts of food redistributed are referred to:

·        As a weight (tonnes; kilogrammes)

·        As an equivalent number of meals

So far, a range of different factors for the conversion of weight into the number of equivalent meals have been used (for example 450g, 500g, 700g), which has made comparisons and reporting difficult. Following consultation with the Working Group, a review of relevant scientific literature and reference books and discussion with Public Health England, WRAP has recommended the use of 420g as a guide for the ‘average’ meal size, for the purposes of illustrating the amounts of food being redistributed. There is currently no official figure for an ‘average’ meal weight (due to the many factors that influence that, such as the meal occasion, the meal type, the individual), but there is research that can be used to create a sensible figure for expressing food surplus as ‘meal equivalents’.

In line with WRAP’s recommendation, Neighbourly will now be reporting meal equivalents using 420g as a meal size – giving 2,381 meals from 1 tonne of surplus. It’s important to note that this number is a guide only – it does not imply that this many balanced meals could be made from the food surplus but illustrates what the amount of food surplus might equate to.

To date (June 2018) the Neighbourly food surplus scheme has supported the redistribution of over 2,360 tonnes of surplus food, the equivalent of around 5.6 million meals, using this new calculation.

Further information can be found on the WRAP website.

Jane

Content Manager

Jun 28, 2018

Starbucks Community Café programme expands to support 20 cafes

Mint Lane Cafe

This week sees Starbucks UK, in partnership with Neighbourly, launch the second phase of its successful Community Café programme. This latest expansion will add a further sixteen cafes to the four already being supported by the scheme since August 2017.

The projects being supported are all not-for-profit cafes, based within community spaces up and down the UK – you can see the latest ones to join the scheme on Neighbourly. Starbucks will be supporting each one through their local stores with donations of essentials like tea, coffee, milk jugs, syrups and cups – for which they will be able to make regular orders. Local stores also hope to offer the support of their staff teams through training and volunteering.

Across the country, these community cafés have come to life in response to the individual needs of a local community. They are all run not-for-profit, with the focus being all about the benefits to the local community – providing good quality, healthy food and drink options at reasonable prices or on a pay-what-you-can basis for those who can’t afford. They all have a strong social angle – acting as sociable, safe and welcoming meeting space for different community groups – with a focus on community cohesion and inclusion.

The K9 café in Ely – one of the latest 16 to be supported by Starbucks – started life as the brain wave of Chris Kent who had been running employability training for adults; ‘The café gave us all a continuing safe place to meet, a chance to practice and develop skills and confidence in the real world – but in supportive environment. Gradually a team of volunteers emerged, who now run the cafe with my support and we’ve been going for over 3 years. People drop in to the cafe to meet other people – some bring their dogs, some do not have a dog of their own but love them, so they can come and share other people’s dogs. We get a wide range of people come the cafe – from elderly people with dementia, young people on work experience, people learning difficulties, physical disabilities, mental health problems, social isolation, wheelchair users, people with autism, homeless people. Many have lifelong conditions and coming to the cafe helps alleviate loneliness and social isolation. Of course, the dogs are the bridge between the people – the glue that holds it all together, the ice-breaker, the thing everyone can talk about and enjoy being with. We don’t get any regular funding – our only income is through proceeds from the tea/coffee we sell, and we try and keep our prices low as most of our customers are on low incomes. Starbucks support means we can maximise the incomes from hot drinks which will be such a help.’

Over in Lincoln, the Mint Lane Cafe is a social eating café that uses retail surplus food, cooked and served by volunteers. Part of the growing “Superkitchen” network, the Café receives deliveries of food which is destined for waste, from local suppliers. From this they prepare and serve fresh nutritious lunches at affordable prices three days a week. It also offers surplus food for sale on a “Pay as You Feel” basis. As well as this they have a highly successful “Pay it Forward” scheme through which customers can donate a meal to someone who cannot afford it themselves. Vouchers are issued for every £3 donated, then distributed through partner agencies to people at risk of food poverty – giving them a free 3 course meal from the day’s menu at the café. The café is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 10am and 3pm, with the menu changing daily according to what rescued food arrives.

Charles Cooke, the Mint Lane Café manager tells us; ‘The primary purpose of the cafe is to provide a warm and welcoming environment for people who use the centre, as well as reducing food waste and fighting food poverty. The café relies on many volunteers undertaking a variety of roles; cooking, serving, managing food donations, cleaning, collecting local food surpluses and in the back office. I love watching the transformations of people… staff, volunteers and customers as they grow, become more confident and develop new friendships. We give a warm welcome at the door for everybody and especially those who might be a bit nervous about new places and new people. Large tables encourage people to sit together and make friends.’

Possobilities, further north in Glasgow, is a small social enterprise café which caters to everyone in the community, but mainly people with disabilities. The café serves 70 people each day and offers a safe place for local people to come and meet without any prejudice. Jim McCabe runs the café with 10 volunteers; ‘Our café is not for profit, so any generated income is always a bonus. Many of our members and customers are on low incomes so a Starbucks coffee is seen as a real luxury. We have won the Glasgow Evening Times Community Champions Award for our initiative and we’re about to launch a specially adapted Gym for people with disabilities that we have been fundraising nearly 4 years for.’

 

Support the campaign

You can support your local community cafe by popping in for a cup of tea or coffee, or maybe you could ‘pay-it-forward’ for a future customer in need. You'll find the cafes taking part in this programme on the campaign page - with more being added in the coming months. Follow and share their project pages across your social channels with the hashtag #StarbucksCommunityCafe to make more people aware of the amazing work they do.

If you're a community cafe looking for support, get in touch: starbucks@neighbourly.com

Jane

Content Manager

May 9, 2018

Don’t let it go to waste

Image

Out of sight, out of mind? Perhaps a cause for concern when we relate it to our consumption of products, materials and food everyday. Because when we don't want to use the peelings from last night's potatoes or those old shampoo bottles, when we're done with the newspaper or no longer need the packaging our food came in - we just...throw it away. The question is - where is away? There is no such place. Everything we throw out has to go somewhere, and usually that somewhere is landfill.

Here are some pretty surprising facts about landfill in the UK:

  • If all cans in the UK were recycled, we would need 14 million fewer dustbins.
  • £36,000,000 worth of aluminium is thrown away each year.
  • Each UK family uses an average of 500 glass bottles and jars annually.
  • Glass that is thrown away and ends up in landfills will never decompose.
  • It takes 24 trees to make 1 tonne of newspaper.
  • 12.5 million tonnes of paper and cardboard are used annually in the UK.
  • Most families throw away about 40kg of plastic per year, which could otherwise be recycled.
  • Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose.

So this is where #ZeroWasteWeek comes in. It's a grassroots campaign raising awareness of the environmental impact of waste and empowering participants to reduce waste. It takes place every year during the first week of September, but it doesn't end there!

At Neighbourly we're passionate about combatting waste, especially when it comes to food. Neighbourly connects local stores that have surplus with the charities and projects that can put it to good use within the community:

  • Over 15 tonnes of food have been saved from landfill through the Neighbourly platform this #ZeroWasteWeek - that's equivalent to over 22,000 meals!
  • Over 1,320 tonnes of food have been saved from landfill through the Neighbourly platform since Neighbourly Food began back in December 2015 - that's around 1.9 millions meals!

Back then, we had just over 160 charities collecting food from M&S stores nationwide. Today we have over 750 charities, community groups and non profits collecting food from M&S and now through our more recent partnership with Lidl.

And there's so much more going on out there in the big wide world to take on the goal of a zero waste society:

It's important that we all take steps to reduce our footprint, if you're interested in learning more about living a zero waste lifestyle, then check Going Zero Waste. If you're a charity or community group interested in receiving product donations then contact us at hello@neighbourly.com.


About Neighbourly

Neighbourly matches charity and community projects with people and companies that can lend a hand. Get support by creating and sharing a project or give support by following, donating or giving a day to volunteer.

Sophie Cook

Community Manager

Sep 8, 2017

Neighbourly launches non-food product donations

zerowaste

We're delighted to announce the expansion of our food surplus scheme to include non-food product donations, with Marks & Spencer on board as the first retailer.

The extension of our award-winning food donation scheme follows research with our food charity partners earlier this year which found that 92% would like to receive non-food donations, with cleaning and laundry products and toiletries the most requested products. We also found that many are in need of kitchen equipment and furniture.

In response to this, we've expanded the platform so that the surplus scheme can now accept a wider range of products from businesses - which is a huge and exciting step forward, not just for us, but for the charities we support, the retailers we work with and the communities in which they operate. The ability to redistribute unwanted but still useful surplus items will contribute to the reduction of raw material consumption, landfill use and CO2 levels.

M&S were the first retailer to sign up to Neighbourly’s food redistribution scheme in 2015 and have been rolling out donations of chilled food including meat, dairy, poultry and prepared meals since May*. They are now asking all their stores to donate any surplus non-food items such as those that may have damaged packaging but are still fit for purpose.

Everyday items M&S will donate include batteries, bags, plant pots, cleaning and laundry products, air fresheners, personal care items and pet food. Louise Nicholls, Head of Responsible Sourcing at M&S told us: “In addition to our regular surplus food donations, the donation of non-food items forms part of our overall Plan A 2025 aim to become a zero-waste business by 2025. Being able to maximise the reuse of non-food products is not only good for our business, but it is also good for the environment and for local communities by enabling them to focus their funds on their core activities.”

Starbucks, who has worked with Neighbourly since 2014 to deliver support to hundreds of local community causes across the UK, will also be using the feature for their new Community Café programme. This will enable not-for-profit cafés to order Starbucks products and collect from their local store. These small charitable spaces, which are often embedded in their local communities, have experienced large falls in income since 2008**. The orderable Starbucks product donations include a range of kitchenware items including condiment shakers and milk steaming pitchers, in addition to food and drink such as espresso coffee and syrups.

To date, the Neighbourly surplus scheme has redistributed over 1,500 tonnes of surplus food – the equivalent of around 1.8 million meals. Over 700 charities have so far joined, and together they provide around 95,000 meals each month to their communities using the donated food. The charities range from homeless shelters, food banks and soup kitchens to community centres, schools, clubs and more.

Non-food items now accepted by the surplus scheme include (but are not limited to) laundry and household items; toiletries; baby care; pet supplies; furniture; electrical items; technology items; kitchenware; clothing and textiles; toys; sports equipment; books; garden items; and painting and DIY equipment.


Get involved

Charities: sign up to Neighbourly and request an alert for the type of products you're interested in within a certain geographical area. Your alert can range from a broad category, such as all household items, to more specific items, like books or pet supplies. If surplus becomes available, you'll receive an alert which you can accept before picking the products up from the local store or warehouse. If you're interested in food donations, get in touch: food@neighbourly.com

Businesses: if your company has surplus food or products, we’d love to talk to you about redistribution. Get in touch: hello@neighbourly.com.



*Doesn't currently include franchise M&S Simply Food stores such as railway and BP stores

** Source: Institute of Public Policy Research

Jane

Content Manager

Aug 13, 2017

Becoming a neighbourly society - the time is now

Bus

Now, more than ever, we’re hearing about the huge, ever-expanding gaps in UK public services that are going to need an army of new volunteers if the provision is to continue. Volunteers Week 2017 has rightly brought more of this crisis to our attention – after all, the week is (or should be) as much about recruiting new volunteers as it is celebrating and thanking existing ones.

As this Guardian article states, volunteers are now running libraries, maintaining parks and staffing hospital reception desks due to austerity cuts, and whilst this is worth and estimated £23bn a year in economic value, it’s still nowhere near enough. And the extent of charities’ work in delivering frontline services keeps on increasing. Included in the essential services run by the charitable sector are ambulance services, housing, health & social care, probation, community transport, mental health and search and rescue – to name a few.

The dream – where neighbourly communities are built with residents, companies, local government teams, charities and community projects, all working in unison like a well-oiled machine – seems ever further from reach. Delivering resources into places that they are needed, building funds where they are depleted and diverting helping hands to where they can help shouldn’t be so difficult. But it is.

Many of these problems could be helped if we, as a whole society, could more easily draw upon our neighbourly values and lend support within our means to ensure everyone not just survives but thrives. We are given some glimpses of hope – The Charities Aid Foundation’s annual UK Giving report, for instance, says that 89% of people “did something charitable” in 2016, including volunteering, which is a huge hike from 79% in 2015.

Official figures are less encouraging though. People reporting having formally volunteered at least once a month – through a group, club or organisation – has flatlined since the turn of the century, standing in the last Cabinet Office survey of 2015-16 at 14.2 million, or 27% of the adult population. Informal volunteering – helping people who are not relatives and doing so not through a group, club or organisation, at least monthly – stood at 18 million, or 34% of the population, in 2015-16. These numbers have stayed broadly unchanged since 2000.

But perhaps it is not a lack of desire, rather a logistical minefield, that stops more of us from contributing. What are we permitted to do? How should we organise ourselves?

And what about companies in all of this? The Guardian article states that ‘charities will have to do much of the heavy lifting on this themselves’ – the 2015 legislation promise of three days’ paid volunteering leave annually for all public-sector workers and those private companies with 250+ staff, remains unfulfilled (and isn’t in the Tory 2017 programme). Regardless of legislation, many businesses have already bought in to the well-documented ‘employee volunteering business case’ and there has been an astronomic increase in UK companies (large ones at least) engaging in some form of employee volunteering. However, The London Benchmarking Group reported that the average proportion of employees engaging in employee volunteering in their member firms was 19 per cent last year, but often uptake is much lower.

There’s clearly a multitude of barriers. Whilst participating companies do advertise the opportunities, it isn’t always enough to turn employees into volunteers. They need to understand what they can learn, the impact they can have and how it will make them feel. Some companies we speak to say they have tried to make this work but their employees felt they didn't want to take the entitlement because they didn't know what opportunities were available and what the business really wanted them to do with the days.

But we think there’s another major factor at play – and one that is not just related to the giving of time. Again and again we come across a snag with company contributions. VAT regulations on product donations, Health and Safety regulations around volunteering, not to mention the complexities of insurance. And of course, the legislation associated with passing on food to those in need, makes these human things extremely worrisome (and in some cases a complete blocker) for the companies that do want to contribute.

The Good Samaritans Act is an interesting concept. It takes many forms across the globe, but if you look at the US, where all 50 states have some type of Good Samaritan law, individuals currently have protection when they lend a hand in an emergency. Put simply, if you see someone in trouble and you stop to help, but inadvertently do more harm than good, you are protected from being sued.

Could the principles of this act be extended more broadly in the UK to companies to take some of the shackles off? Can we become a society where if we see a need and we want to help, then we can have a go – being sensible in our decisions and careful and respectful in delivery of course – but free from the fear of repercussions?

Something has to change, for sure. Let’s have a look at Edelman’s 17th annual trust and credibility survey: ‘We are experiencing a total collapse in trust in the institutions that shape our society.’ Trust in the UK is at a historic low at 29 per cent. There is an unprecedented feeling that life is not as fair as it used to be. And sadly, only one in nine of the UK population think that the system still works.

Business needs to lead, and be free to do so. The rewards could be huge – our recent research showed employer led volunteering as resoundingly positive (7+ out of 10 - from the individuals taking part). Those who volunteered with their company trust other people and companies more than those who haven’t, and are more likely to recommend their company to a friend. On top of this, the research shows they are happier and more satisfied with life.

Clearly Marks and Spencer get it: this week 7000 M&S colleagues from over 650 stores and offices will be donating their time and skills to over 700 local community projects. Their new Plan A 2025 #SpenditWell community transformation programme will support 1,000 communities, help 10 million people live happier, healthier lives and convert M&S into a zero-waste business.

There is, very definitely, huge untapped potential, a willingness to contribute and a glut of resources. Take a look at our Twitter feed if you ever need a reminder of the undying spirit of neighbourliness that defines our communities. Or this story of supermarket workers from Sainsbury’s donating food to police officers in the recent London Bridge attacks.

Let’s make the fabric of our society and the ownership of it a shared challenge where we all have and equal hand in helping it flourish.

Jane

Content Manager

Jun 8, 2017

Food waste: How we can accelerate the pace of change

bananas2

The problem of food waste in England is piling up. If the case hadn’t already been made strongly enough, Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has labelled the economic, environmental and social effects as ‘grotesque’. Its recently published report on Food Waste in England was brought forward as the election was called, and they ask their successor committee to return to the issue, but it still makes for a clarion call to action to tackle the problem of food waste.

For all of us seeking to reduce food waste and to support redistribution there are important points to understand and respond to, which I’ve set out here. And there are areas where the report could go further to take on the problem, in my view, to accelerate the pace of change.

The report shows that there are real challenges in how the waste system is currently set up. The accepted waste hierarchy puts reduction first, then redistribution, and then way to dispose of unused food. But in practice the incentives either aren’t known or don’t exist to the level needed to enforce this structure in practice. Along with publicising the current incentives, there is an interesting recommendation for a fund to be set up. What this adds up to is the need for a business case to be built. It simply has to make more sense to reduce first, then redistribute food, not only because it is irrefutably the right thing to do, but because it makes for good business.

Then there is the issue of more and better data and transparency. One of things we’ve always stood for at Neighbourly is the transparency of donations. We’re working with our clients on more and better data for redistribution. The sheer weight of data and the reality that it wasn’t necessarily set up to report what we need means we have a mountain to climb. It’s an area that would benefit from real investment and cross industry collaboration.

It’s also very positive to see that WRAP and the work of Courtauld 2025 gets support. The Food Surplus Redistribution Working Group of Courtauld 2025 is a positive, collaborative effort. But Courtauld needs to be allowed to drive a strong vision and go a lot faster. The support that the Committee asks for WRAP can give it the resources it needs to accelerate its work. And extending the membership to include more manufacturers, as well as strengthening the commitment itself, can only be a good thing.

There are some critical sections of the report for food charities too, which deserved to make the recommendations more clearly. Our research with the Food Foundation, which formed part of our co-hosted seminar with the Food Standards Agency showed a snapshot of the critical capacity gaps charities face. Our FundAFridge campaign, kindly supported by Lidl, helped around 50 charities get a new fridge or freezer, helping them keep food safe and fresher for longer. 

Charities can also get funds and volunteers for their work, as well as food, through Neighbourly. This kind of support is critical, and there are many ways to support, for example the Committee talks about how haulage companies can help with the transport challenges. What we need to see is a Government supported campaign to get more support and resources to food charities for the incredible work they do, and companies who can help in so many ways from transport providers, to volunteers with logistics, data or marketing skills, to community fundraisers, corralling to creatively help address these gaps. 

It’s time for us all to focus our energy behind this issue. The case has been made, the need is clear, so let’s unlock some of this latent potential and take on the problem together.


Find out about distributing your surplus through Neighbourly.

Want to join our scheme as a food recipient? Email food@neighbourly.com

Steve Haines

Head of Community Engagement

May 2, 2017

The story of surplus: The Whitechapel Centre, Liverpool

homeless

A hot breakfast is a big deal for those who visit the Whitechapel Centre, Liverpool’s leading homeless and housing charity.

Many people who use the centre are sleeping rough, and it gives them a chance to make a positive change and find a way out of homelessness. Whitechapel offers a wealth of services to help get people back on track, such as advice on housing and employment, and they also provide basic facilities – including a lovely hot breakfast.

A simple morning meal – which the centre provides every day – may not sound like much, but can really help. Being homeless already leads to increased levels of stress and anxiety, and being low on sustenance can make this state of mind even worse. It’s not just a myth that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Just providing some protein can help people feel more alert, calm and receptive. Better yet, a meal is a gesture of kindness that some vulnerable individuals haven’t experienced in some time. Post shower, breakfast and putting on some clean clothes, those that have dropped in may be more likely to open up and explain what their needs are.

And there’s another perk to this breakfast, and the other meals the centre provides throughout the day - it’s made with surplus food. Neighbourly has now redistributed over one million meals to charities like the Whitechapel Centre through its platform, with the scheme donating between 90,000 and 100,000 meals every month. Nearly 20% of the charities or groups picking up the food are homeless services.

Retailers like Marks and Spencer post their unsold food, allowing charities to choose what they need and then pick it up. Charities can also create alerts for particular items they need.

The White Chapel Centre picks up food everyday, with any excess being distributed further to other hostels and agencies.

Project lead for the White Chapel Centre, Sheila Farrelly, says she has good relationships with managers at the various stores. Each night’s surplus is different, she says – an example offering being fruit, bread, pastries and some tinned food – but whatever turns up, receiving the donation really makes a difference. “There isn’t always a budget for food,” Sheila explains. “It’s often last on the list… so any financial donations they can get they can use for something else.” Take the breakfast that the centre provides every morning. Even if you spent £30 a week on bread, that’s in the region of £1,500 a year, Sheila notes – and that doesn’t include fruit and other items.

And Sheila points out that the surplus they receive is “nice food”. Only a couple of weeks ago, she took some of the Marks and Spencer managers to meet some of lads at one of the hostels connected with the Whitechapel Centre, who shared how much they appreciated the food. Having a Marks and Spencer cake is a real luxury for those in hostels, says Sheila . “When they were living on the streets they were going through bins, and now they’re sitting back with a cup of coffee and a good quality pastry or a cake.”

And food is just the beginning – the centre wants to help people find a home and learn the life skills needed for independent living. But having a good meal is certainly an important step.


About Neighbourly

Neighbourly matches charity and community projects with people and companies that can donate time, money or surplus food.

Currently, the Neighbourly Food scheme sees between 90,000 and 100,000 meals donated per month.

Charities: join us! You can get your free project page started here

Businesses: email us about redistributing your surplus on hello@neighbourly.com

Jane

Content Manager

Apr 4, 2017

The story of surplus: City Harvest London

city_harvest2

City Harvest’s refrigerated vans are greeted with excitement – that’s because they’re bringing some of London’s best food produce to help serve up a healthy and nutritious meal to those who need it.

“The chefs at soup kitchens and other community food programmes take as much pride in their cooking as chefs at any restaurant,” says Laura Winningham, City Harvest London’s CEO. “They appreciate good food, fresh produce and the chance to enable people facing adversity to eat great meals with dignity.”

And City Harvest is just one of the recipients who’s had a share of Neighbourly’s one million meals – that’s over 930 tonnes of surplus food that the platform has redistributed. Neighbourly’s technology links retailers with surplus to organisations that need it, helping to keep perfectly edible food out of the bin and into hungry bellies.

The food that City Harvest collects and ultimately delivers in the community enables these chefs to “work with fantastic ingredients, that otherwise would have gone to waste, and for people to get nourished and turn their lives around.”

Launched in the capital in 2014, the non-profit distributes to organisations that feed the hungry, from homeless shelters and soup kitchens to after school programs and centres for veterans.

Among other donors, Marks and Spencer helps City Harvest put high quality food on the table, and the technology has made this process simple and efficient, says Winningham.

Crucially, the surplus alerts - detailing what foods are available - give City Harvest a chance to do some advanced planning. “Each charity recipient has unique food needs and dietary requirements so we need to allocate food accordingly. When food donors don’t give us advanced notice, it is more challenging for our drivers on their routes.”

M&S stores across London alert City Harvest’s logistics team whenever food is available – usually several times per week - and then drivers add these deliveries to their daily routes. Just one City Harvest van delivers 1,000 meals each day.

Winningham says that technology is an important step in valuing food in the circular economy in London. “By the end of the day, this nutritious food that might have been wasted has been delivered to deeply appreciative community meal programs and served in meals to vulnerable individuals whose lives are enhanced by the donations.”

Surplus food donations have enabled City Harvest to feed thousands of people nutritious meals and continue to add more routes across London. “As we do this we hope to connect with more stores and make an even greater impact.”

And it’s important to City Harvest’s drivers too, with many having at some point experienced adversity, food poverty or homelessness. “Our drivers appreciate the high quality of food collected and are proud to be making the deliveries,” says Winningham.

Not only does this help the charities that City Harvest delivers to keep food budgets down, but these funds can be redirected into other vital services for their clients.


About Neighbourly

Neighbourly matches charity and community projects with people and companies that can donate time, money or surplus food.

Currently, the Neighbourly Food scheme sees between 90,000 and 100,000 meals donated per month.

Charities: join us! You can get your free project page started here

Businesses: email us about redistributing your surplus on hello@neighbourly.com

Jane

Content Manager

Apr 4, 2017