2–4 September 2018 • Olympia London • Trade Only

Ride-a-long with City Harvest

logoCity Harvest helps put surplus food to good use in a sustainable way, by distributing to organisations that feed the hungry. Having previously partnered with the charity at our sister show IFE, we had no hesitation in supporting this wonderful charity at Speciality & Fine Food Fair this September. Our Operations Assistant, Kayleigh Williams, spent some time with them to find out exactly what’s involved in rescuing food… (400 tonnes of which has been saved to date!).

I was delighted to go on a ride-along with City Harvest. I arrived at their depot in Acton at 8.15am - ready for a big day ahead. I was very excited to see the planning and operation behind this successful charity that redistributes food all around London to those in need; ranging from low-income communities, to homeless shelters, to the elderly.

Warehouse The charity has a multitude of donors and support from companies such as M&S, Waitrose and Nandos, alongside various events (such as our shows!) who donate surplus goods. 

I quickly learnt that there is a huge operation behind this daunting task. I was greeted by Moe who is responsible for the daily logistics; Moe told me all about their agenda that week which had involved collecting surplus food from The Flower Show and Big House BBQ.

I was shown around their warehouse discovering that all the donated goods are separated into categories – baby food, fresh food, even pet food! Then they talked me through 'The Map' - an online tool they use which pinpoints all the places across London that they currently collect from and drop-off to, as well as potential projects in the pipe line. Let’s just say the total projects outnumbered the London underground stations!

To start the day I hopped in the van with Moe and drove to a nearby Waitrose film studio to collect a few crates worth of chilled and frozen produce left over from the shoots. It was really cool to see the studio behind the scenes of the Waitrose adverts! 

Back at the warehouse we quickly unpacked the van ready for driver Eileen and I to start our main route for the day. If you’re interested, the agenda included the wonderful Bayley & Sage on New Kings Road, several Whole Foods stores, M&S and Nandos.

Raring to go, we drove off to our first collection point and packed the van with all sorts of produce; yogurts, fruit, veg, crisps, freshly baked goods and much more. Eileen explained they usually do supermarket pickups a couple of times a week, depending on how much they have to donate. We had a great system going; I would grab all the acceptable food (which was the majority of it) from the supermarkets’ warehouse and Eileen would load the van up! 

Kayleigh Nandos was next on the agenda - as the chicken is frozen I asked why they donate it if they aren’t in a hurry to use it and Eileen said it is purely out of kindness which was lovely to hear.

After we made several worthwhile pickups, we headed to our first drop-off which was Delgarno - a community centre for the less fortunate. Understandably I couldn’t take pictures but it was very touching to see that the food was being used to offer free meals, supplies and comfort to them. 

Our second drop-off was to Bin Brooke House, a home for the elderly. Eileen knew what food would be accepted by whom so I unloaded the crates into the communal space where I met a very sweet old man who loved spending all day sat by the door in his wheelchair, buzzing in and greeting the visitors…very heart-warming! 


With only one place left to deliver, we headed off to Grenville Youth and Community Centre. We went up and down the stairs, carefully carrying crates full of bananas, avocados, cooking oil, and watermelons. The sun was shining, but the muggy heat certainly made the task a lot more challenging. However, it was all worth it in the end to see their gratitude and appreciation. 

It was an exhausting but highly rewarding day, redistributing all of the excess food. The impact City Harvest have on those in need is remarkable and I am honoured to have experienced the charity in action. The experience truly emphasised for me how much time, energy and compassion goes into what City Harvest do. The team work hard, long and strenuous hours but it is a true reflection on their passion, dedication and commitment to helping reduce hunger and malnutrition across the capital. 

I look forward to building our partnership with City Harvest at Speciality & Fine Food Fair!