Low-carbon Food Connect service saves 260,000 meals from waste in Milton Keynes trial

Hubbub urges businesses to “hop on board” and support new locations  

As the spotlight continues to shine on food waste and its contribution climate change, environmental charity Hubbub reveals the astonishing success of its pilot in Milton Keynes, redistributing surplus food from retailers to community groups using electric cargo bikes and an electric van.  

The trial saved: 

  • 109 tonnes of food – the equivalent of almost 260,000 meals 
  • 1.7 tonnes of transport emissions   

The food saved was associated with 36 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.  

Despite significant progress on reducing waste across sectors over recent years, WRAP estimates that a vast quantity of surplus remains in the UK food system1.  The last or final mile is the most inefficient in redistribution – food at this stage is close to its end of life and redistribution often depends on collections by small voluntary organisations.   

The Food Connect pilot supported  community groups across Milton Keynes, and was hosted by the Wolverton Community Fridge which was one of the first to open in the UK in 2017.  The pilot partnered with retailers, restaurants, FareShare, Milton Keynes Council and food manufacturers to share healthy food in the community.  

The Food Connect pilot took place between September 2020 and February 2021, and the e-bikes and van also provided much-needed help in delivering food packs to vulnerable households over the summer of 2020. As well as branching out to other parts of the country, Food Connect is set to continue sharing great food in Milton Keynes.  

Aoife Allen, Head of Food at Hubbub said: “We are thrilled to have saved 109 tonnes of food and at the same time supported the need for cleaner air. We believe that Food Connect can provide an agile, replicable solution to the final-mile-challenge by delivering great surplus food to community groups who can share it really quickly. The food surplus sector in the UK is very effective but there are gaps that we believe Food Connect can fill. We want to work with businesses and others in the redistribution space to make it as efficient and beneficial to the community as possible.  We’d really welcome support from the business community to help make this a reality.”  

Helen Innes, Project Co-ordinator for Food Connect said: “Food Connect has enabled us to provide food to around 800 local families a week and has also reduced the pressure on the volunteers who would be making these journeys by foot, taxi or car to pick up the surplus food.  The project has helped us establish a more reliable supply, including a wider variety of food to share and was invaluable in allowing us to support shielding households last year. We are so thrilled with the results and look forward to helping the service expand.” 

Lee Porter from FareShare said: “The Milton Keynes trial has gone brilliantly, demonstrating a clear increase in the amount of great quality food redistributed into the local community. The “last mile” is always challenging and to see reductions in both food waste and emissions really is a double win!”    

The pilot was supported by funding from CAF Venturesome, Costa Coffee, Bosch eBike Systems, The National Lottery Community Fund, and Milton Keynes Council through the eCargo Bike Grant Fund, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered by Energy Saving Trust.  

Businesses and organisations interested in supporting and collaborating in the next phase should visit www.foodconnect.io