Posted: Jun 30, 2017
Roster includes TV names like Monica Galetti, Michel Roux Jr and Ashley Palmer-Watts
Winston Gordon has spent a year driving a delivery van in his spare time to take surplus food — destined for landfill — to charities across London.
This week it was his turn to be fed as volunteers from the Felix Project were feted at the St Cuthbert's Centre in Earl's Court, one of the places they have helped with free, in-date food that would otherwise have been wasted.
He told The Independent he had been shocked by the “magnitude” of London's food waste problem, with hundreds of thousands of tonnes of edible food thrown away each year.
At St Cuthbert's this summer, leading chefs including Angela Hartnett and Michel Roux Jr have been cooking for homeless people and other disadvantaged Londoners, serving meals made from ingredients supermarkets would otherwise have thrown away.
The centre, which has served the community for years, is now the third surplus food canteen opened by the world’s top-rated chef, Massimo Bottura, under his Food for Soul banner, following other successful anti-waste schemes in Milan and at the Rio Olympics.
This week it was the turn of Felix Project volunteers to eat there as they sat down to dinner cooked by Francesco Mazzei, chef patron of Sartoria, a high-end Italian restaurant in London's Mayfair.
Mr Mazzei, on his second shift of the day having cooked for 100 centre visitors earlier, told The Independent: “With this climate, in this world, with everything happening, everything is dangerous, everything can be scary, to see things like this makes me proud.
“These guys, they’re my heroes. They’ve all been doing this for free, in their own free time.
“The waste of food is just disgusting, that’s the word. It is a scandal, yes, if you see how many people die for food. If you still see the starvation around the world. And we chuck food in the bin, it’s absolutely crazy.”
The Felix Project provides a reliable pick-up service to 60 suppliers including Waitrose, Sainsbury's and Costco, who offload surplus in-date produce which volunteers can sort and then distribute to charities.
It says it can deliver more than £8-worth of food for every £1 it receives in donations and the drop-offs are free, saving the other groups money they can spend elsewhere.
Volunteers from the Felix Project sit down to dinner at the St Cuthbert's Centre (The Independent)
Some 100,000 Londoners are currently food-poor, meaning they lack access to healthy food, the project said. The food it distributes can reach more than 9,000 people every week.
The Felix Project was set up in 2015 by The Independent’s chairman Justin Byam Shaw, in memory of his late son.
It has just a few full-time staff members but a team of more than 150 volunteers, while hundreds more have asked to get involved.
Mr Gordon, 55, of Hounslow, said of his shifts: “It can vary depending on the supplier but you could have, for instance, four to fifteen crates of bread. These are wholesalers that have over-ordered on a particular food stock.
“What’s really a concern is that some of the food is imported, not necessarily grown locally. Transported all the way to the UK, for it to be then thrown away.”
Francesco Vanni d’Archirafi, the chief executive of Citi Holdings, told The Independent he thought this model could “go global”. He added: “It’s leveraging contacts, connections.”
Food waste is “a wasted opportunity,” he said. As well as the obvious benefit of saving produce, with schemes like the Felix Project, “those who have surplus food don’t have to pay to dispose of it”. “Everybody wins.”
On Tuesday night about 70 of its volunteers sat down to dinner, with many meeting for the first time as night-shift drivers often do not cross paths with their daytime counterparts.
Peter Cranmer, 60, volunteered to drive a delivery van. The Sunderland native, who lives in Ealing, said: “They’re always short of drivers. If there’s a shortage or they’re stuck, I fill in.
“I like doing physical things where you know, you can immediately see, the impact you’re making. Everybody you deliver it to is always so grateful.
“You know if we’re not there the food that’s left over at the end of the day, in the evening, would be going to waste. It feels as if you’re making something really happen.”
Vincent Seabrook, a volunteer at St Cuthbert’s for 11 years who first visited when he himself was sleeping rough, told The Independent: “This is making a big difference to people’s lives. If it wasn’t for what’s happened with the organisations that have helped, we would struggle.
“We’ve had new people coming in. Our profile was very small, and now everybody knows.”
Cristina Reni, projects manager at Food for Soul, said: “It’s beautiful and so powerful when a project like the Felix Project delivers fresh food to a place like this.
“Sometimes we forget how food can be a bit of a medicine. It’s like when you go to your grandmother’s house and you know she’s made you something special. Someone is serving to them at the table something that was made with a lot of love.”
By Jon Sharman
June 29, 2017
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