This article was written by Shirley Duncalf – Head of Sustainability, Bidvest Foodservice
Most foodbanks understandably focus on non-perishable food but foodservice organisations often have surpluses of perishable food that, without intervention, often goes on to form a bulk of the food waste stream. But there is a way to harness this, reduce waste costs and help the community…
The Bounty Club
The Bounty Club is a pilot project with the Michael Roberts Charitable Trust (MRCT) working in partnership with the Bidvest Foodservice Harlow depot to redistribute short-dated fresh food to the local community – a first for the charity and something that could be replicated by other like-minded organisations around the country.
<MRCT had a vision to redistribute fresh food and promote healthier food choices to the community. After initial discussions with Bidvest Foodservice it was agreed to collect their stocks of short-dated fresh food twice a week. This includes items such as milk, bread, fruit and vegetables, which is then redistributed to front-line agencies the same day. MRCT have 33 front-line agency partners that the fresh food is supplied to, including Harlow Foodbank clients, primary school breakfast clubs, Westminster Drug Project, refugee services and children’s centres.
As an important first step to the project, MRCT took advice from their local Environmental Health officer to ensure that the fresh food remained fit for purpose during the transportation on the day. MRCT are fortunate enough to have a volunteer driver, Kevin Tierney, who drives on both days of the collection and redistribution. This works well because the distribution is kept locally, within the Harlow area. Kevin has won a ‘Heart for Harlow’ award for all his community work.
A successful pilot
The pilot project, which started in September 2014 and is due to finish in December 2015, has been so successful that MRCT are planning on making this a permanent service and other local food companies have already expressed an interest in participating in the project. MRCT have been able to build on the infrastructure that is already in place, focussing on ‘for the benefit of the community’, while Bidvest Foodservice have reduced their stocks of short-dated food that would otherwise be discarded.
MRCT have also applied for funding for a refrigerated vehicle and Andy Bulled, Bidvest Foodservice Sustainability Coordinator Harlow depot, is working with MRCT to help the organisation purchase a refrigerated vehicle. This would enable the delivery of chilled products and the provision of a greater range of fresh and healthy food to expand the fresh food deliveries.
Shirley Duncalf, Head of Sustainability Bidvest Foodservice, recently met up with Gary Knott, Director of Community Services for MRCT, to talk about the outcomes of the Bounty Club pilot and to find out what plans were in place to build on the pilot. He explained how the support from Bidvest Foodservice had resulted in the setting up of the Bounty Club in the first place and how the technical expertise of Andy Bulled, Sustainability Coordinator at Harlow, was helping the project to extend into the redistribution of chilled products to add to the fresh fruit and vegetables.
Feedback on the pilot programme
“The perception is often that the food redistributed by charity organisations is unhealthier, unappetising and unsuitable for families wanting to have a varied and healthy diet. This project shows that this is not the case – community engagement activities can support a healthy diet and by providing fresh fruit and vegetables and looking at the possibility of delivering chilled goods the menus for individuals will improve enormously.”
Shirley Duncalf, Head of Sustainability, Bidvest Foodservice
“Building a great relationship with the trust has allowed us to divert short dated product, due to go to landfill, back into the local community and this has also helped the Harlow depot to realise Bidvest Foodservices aim of zero waste to landfill by the end of 2015. I’m looking forward to seeing the benefits that the Bounty club will bring to the local community and hope that this project can be rolled out across the country.”
Andy Bulled, Site Excellence Manager & Sustainability Coordinator, Bidvest Foodservice
“One of our targets is to help reduce obesity in our catchment area, and the Bounty Club has been able to help the cause by providing a range of different healthy foods to families living on a very tight budget.”
Angela Cameron, Children’s Centre Manager, Tree House Children’s Centre
“Thank you Food Bank for the food: we are going to use all the vegetables for dinner tonight.”
“It has encouraged healthier eating in our home and saved us £s.”
“We’ve (children’s centre) been able to use the fresh food in one-to-one cookery sessions with families, which has been really positive.”
“Some of our ladies at the woman’s refuge have been teaching others how to cook with the fresh food, when previously they’ve not known what to do with it.”
Food bank Customers (from The Michael Roberts Charitable Trust)
“Andy Bulled (from Bidvest Foodservice) has been amazing. He’s really gone over and above to help make this project a success and he continues to engage with us and push the project forward.”
Gary Knott, Director of Community Services for MRCT
“The project is going from strength to strength and it’s so rewarding when people get food, like grapes and strawberries, that they just couldn’t afford to buy themselves.”
Kevin Tierney, Driver for MRCT
If you’d like to find out more about how you could get involved in the re-distribution of fresh food, please contact Gary Knotts from MRCT, who would be more than happy to talk to you.
Author: Shirley Duncalf – Head of Sustainability, Bidvest Foodservice