As part of The Maverick Group’s CSR programme for 2021, we are delighted to introduce one of our charity partners for the year – The Felix Project. To find out a little more about the charity’s work, we spoke to Louise Bingham, Corporate Partnerships Manager at The Felix Project, to get her take on this incredibly worthy cause, and how The Maverick Group will be able to help.
Louise, it’s a pleasure to have you with us – and thank you for taking the time to explain the amazing work that The Felix Project does. Let’s jump right in – what’s The Felix Project all about?
The Felix Project has a dual purpose – we combat food waste and use that surplus food to tackle food poverty. In essence we use one problem to solve another. We want to help feed the 1.4 million adults and 400,000 children in London that struggle to afford to eat every day, as well as tackle the issue of the nearly 2 million tonnes of good, edible, surplus food that the U.K. food industry generates every year. In essence, we are working together to get good food to good people, and to good causes.
Those numbers are a real eye-opener…
That’s not even the worst of it. At the beginning of 2020, 8.4 million people in the UK were struggling to afford to eat – and 4.7 million of them live in severely food insecure homes. We now know that this figure has increased by a further 3 million because of the COVID-19 crisis, and this sharp rise in food poverty is being driven by both self-isolation and a lack of money as an unprecedented economic shutdown leaves millions of workers furloughed, newly unemployed or dependent on government support.
How does The Felix Project help?
Before the pandemic hit, we worked with over 170 suppliers – including supermarkets, wholesalers, farms, restaurants and delis. We would collect or receive food from them, sort it, and then deliver this food to over 450 front-line charities, primary schools and holiday programmes in London. That way, food that would have gone to waste is reaching vulnerable people, homeless, people with mental health or those who simply cannot afford to buy regular, healthy food.
And since COVID-19?
When the pandemic hit, everything had to change, the charity had to adapt to the needs of a locked down London, upscaling 300% in a matter of days. The Felix Project worked closely with two other food distributing charities locally to form the London Food Alliance – delivering food into the quickly-created food hubs in every borough across the capital to help reach those who were most vulnerable. At the height of the pandemic, the charity was redistributing 250 tons of food a week, and at the end of the final shift of 2020, The Felix Project achieved the incredible milestone of 21.1 million meals redistributed across the year.
That’s truly incredible… Let’s go back to the beginning – how did the charity start?
The founders, Jane and Justin Byam Shaw, set up The Felix Project nearly five years ago in memory of their son, Felix. When he tragically died suddenly due to meningitis in 2014, they wanted to create a legacy in his name that impacted the city where he lived, helping local communities and local children. The charity started with one van, a phone and one food supplier and it’s grown from there!
Such a powerful, amazing thing to come from something so sad. How can people support The Felix Project?
There are many ways to help – volunteering at one of our depots, delivering food around London, fundraising, donating, and spreading the word. This charity exists because of volunteer support, and the beauty of our volunteering programme is that it is managed online with a diary of shifts so you can sign up for whenever it works for you. The ‘Help Us’ section of our website – thefelixproject.org – has all the information people need if they’re interested in helping out. And, of course, we’re grateful for all the support we can get.
What’s the plan for 2021 for The Felix Project?
The charity has always had plans to grow, to reach across the whole of London and provide the last mile of food distribution to more schools and charities. The need is now higher than ever, and as a result we will be opening a new depot in Bromley by Bow, East London this year. This will significantly increase our capacity and operations to redistribute millions more meals every year. This depot will be unique in that we’re installing a professional kitchen which will be run by a small team. We’re planning on recruiting and training young people not in employment, education or training to become our chefs, creating our first ever employability scheme. 2021 will be an exciting year for us!
Louise, this sounds like a truly brilliant cause, and one that we’re proud to be supporting throughout 2021. Thanks for taking the time to talk us through your work.