Food Connect Southwark launches to tackle food waste, create green jobs and share surplus food as cost of living rises

  • Hubbub expands Food Connect following success of initiative in Milton Keynes 
  • Low-carbon redistribution service to tackle food waste and share surplus with local residents faced with rising cost of living
  • Albrighton Community Centre to act as main hub for service 

Environmental charity Hubbub is expanding its Food Connect initiative to Southwark in partnership with the Mayor of London, Albrighton Community Centre and Southwark Council.

Food Connect will use an electric van and e-bikes to tackle the ‘final mile’ challenge of helping retailers to reduce their food waste by ensuring surplus good food is quickly and efficiently shared with the residents in the area rather than being thrown away. The surplus food will be redistributed via the Camberwell Community Fridge operated by the Albrighton Community Centre. It is estimated that over 300,000 meals’ worth of food could be shared annually thanks to the new initiative.

The launch of the low carbon redistribution service in Southwark follows the success of the initiative in Milton Keynes, where in its first year it saved 240 tonnes of good food from waste. 

Albrighton Community Centre will be the focal point of the project as it already provides much needed services to over 400 local residents a week, including running vaccination drives and providing citizens advice. Its community fridge is a space where anyone can exchange or pick up good food that would otherwise go to waste. It currently shares up to eight tonnes of food a month and the local coordinators have seen an increase in visitors as the cost of living crisis is starting to bite.

Thanks to the electric vehicles and a team of employed drivers and a co-ordinator, Food Connect will help increase the centre’s capacity and boost its impact in many ways: 

  • The dedicated Food Connect team will help secure greater volumes and variety of food. In Milton Keynes, 50% of the redistributed food consists of fruit and veg. 
  • Switching to an e-van will result in transport efficiencies and carbon savings, as food collections have previously been done by volunteers in their own cars. The fully electric service in Milton Keynes resulted in estimated transport emission savings of 8 tonnes in the first year 
  • The initiative will free up volunteers’ time to focus on more socially-focused initiatives, such as projects that tackle loneliness, promote learning new skills and healthy eating, as well as identifying new retail partners and other local groups in need of food for their visitors.  

Helen Innes, Project Co-ordinator for Food Connect said: We are thrilled to be rolling out Food Connect to Southwark, creating green jobs and working with Albrighton Community Centre and establish a more reliable and varied supply of healthy food to the local community. The low carbon fleet will not only help reduce carbon emission, but it will also reduce the pressure on the volunteers who would be making journeys by foot, taxi or car to pick up the surplus food.  We look forward to helping local retailers distribute more surplus food to those who need it, whilst supporting the need for cleaner air.”

Jackie Mustoe, Centre Manager at Albrighton Community Centre, said:

The demand for Albrighton Community Centre’s services skyrocketed during the pandemic, and our amazing volunteers worked tirelessly to provide support and food to people who need it. This is a very exciting time for us as Food Connect will help increase our capacity so we can grow our services.”

Councillor Evelyn Akoto, cabinet member for health and wellbeing at Southwark Council, said:This is such a common-sense approach to addressing so many modern-day issues and echoes a time when we could more easily knock on a neighbour’s door to share food, offer a helping hand, or where someone could ask for help if they were in need – it is how a community should be. I am proud of the local residents who already use and support the Albrighton Centre. The fact that this expanded service means that shops and supermarkets will reduce waste and that the project supports environmental sustainability is all the better. It’s great to see the Albrighton Centre building on its experience as a community fridge and leading the way with Hubbub to test the Food Connect model in Southwark.”

Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues, said: “This fantastic project, with funding from the Mayor of London, demonstrates how environmental action can help tackle the cost of living crisis as we work to cut emissions from both food waste and last mile deliveries.

Food Connect will bring an innovative new approach to reducing food waste by providing healthy meals to Londoners affected by rising energy and food costs. In the process it will create new green jobs, using electric vehicles and cargo bikes to redistribute surplus food.”

Food Connect in Southwark is funded by Hubbub, the Mayor of London and Southwark Council. The partners aim to demonstrate the benefits of a model which can be replicated across London communities.