What does it mean to run a sustainable business? How can we do our bit, however small, to contribute to society and set an example for how we think big businesses should operate? These are questions we ask ourselves and have done since Botanic Lab began. The ethos of "Created Better" that sits at the heart of what we do extends beyond the quality of our product to how we can "do better" in all aspects of the business. It's not always an easy task, especially when you're a little fish in a big pond. When we heard about the work that City Harvest do right on our doorstep we wanted to make sure we support them in whatever way we can.
Each day across London, thousands of people are going hungry whilst tonnes of food is wasted from food businesses and events across the capital. Although many businesses are happy to donate their surplus they are often at a loss as to how to get it to those who need it. Recognising this, former Wall Street Analyst and CEO Laura Winningham got together with a group of friends and formed City Harvest, a grassroots charity that is connecting the available food from London businesses with hungry Londoners who need it.
Recognising that London didn’t have a solution for the “last mile” of food surplus - short life food from local food businesses that needs distributing quickly and safely - the friends began their mission to divert the disposal of healthy, usable food from landfill. Instead, they are recycling and delivering it to charities and organisations feeding vulnerable people across the capital.
The award-winning charity (Business Green Leaders Awards, Edie Sustainability Awards and Leiths Charity of the Year to name a few) is making a positive impact across the capital, delivering to over 150 organisations per week including homeless shelters, soup kitchens, after-school programs and organisations that help people with addictions. Regular deliveries from City Harvest allows the organisations to free up their budgets for other vital services such as medical care and counselling. The recycled food is also diverted from landfill putting less pressure on the planet too.
Laura says, "City Harvest has a fabulous, passionate team, and each day we see the results of our hard work—people all over London are served nutritious meals at local community organisations to which we deliver food. Our drivers work hard but see the impact that they are having at each and every stop they make. Jim Collins, a professor of mine once stated ...
"it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life."
City Harvest has been extremely hard work but it is deeply meaningful for our entire team."
Working with companies including Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Wholefoods, Leon and now Botanic Lab, City Harvest makes it easy for food donors to reduce their food waste whilst putting it to great use by supporting organisations including Red Cross Refugee Support, Glass Door Winter Night Shelters and Acton Homeless Concern.
CEO Laura shared her hopes for the charity with us:
- Get enough vans on the road to connect all surplus food in London to those that need it most. Then launch in other cities around the UK.
- Raising awareness for food businesses to donate food for human consumption rather than sending food to landfill or composting/animal feed
- Raise funding to keep our vans and drivers on the road
- Educate that surplus food is not “leftover food for leftover people” but high-quality food that we all would be happy eating, getting redistributed to people that don’t have access to it.
It's a truly resourceful enterprise and one that we are so happy to support. Check them out and do what you can to spread the word. Ask the business that you provide custom to, to consider working with charities to make good use of the great food that often goes to waste.
Some of the organisations City Harvest work with include:
FoodCycle is a national charity that runs local 'Hubs' where volunteers are trained to cook healthy, tasty, three-course meals with surplus food. Food is served with warmth and dignity to those facing poverty and social isolation. City Harvest supports with regular deliveries to FoodCycle Marylebone, as well as for one-off events at our Hubs across London
Glass Door Winter Night Shelters
140 men and women sleep more safely each evening during the cold winter months because of the wonderful work that the teams at Glass Door/West London Churches Night Shelters do. Volunteers set beautiful tables helping vulnerable people eat with dignity. City Harvest food helps nourish those who come in from the cold.
The Upper Room
A front line charity working with socially and economically disadvantaged people from some of the most deprived areas of London, working with people who are experiencing homelessness – including those at risk of homelessness, providing them with food, clothing, toiletries and a safe and warm environment in the short-term, while providing support to help them rebuild their lives in the long-term.