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Foodcycle: Using surplus food to strengthen communities

Reino UnidoReino Unido
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

FoodCycle builds communities by combining volunteers, surplus food and spare kitchen spaces to create healthy meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation. Each month FoodCycle serves around 3,000 meals, created using almost 4,000kg of reclaimed surplus food.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if food waste was used as a catalyst for social change?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

More than 4 million people are affected by ‘food poverty’ in the UK yet an estimated 15 million tonnes of food is wasted in Britain from plough to plate. At the same time social isolation is on the rise - it is estimated 97% of communities in the UK have become more socially fragmented in the last thirty years, with research showing lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

FoodCycle has established a community-led model that diverts surplus food away from landfill to those who need it. Knowing that at least 400,000 tonnes of usable food could be saved from supermarkets each year, FoodCycle has established partnerships across the UK, putting the procedures in place to enable our 1300 volunteers to collect surplus food every week and turn it into delicious meals. FoodCycle gives vulnerable people the chance to benefit from a healthy meal, to make friends, and to feel more connected to their community. Our triple-donation model, where food, time and community space are all freely given, makes this an affordable and easily replicable model for the UK and beyond.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

FoodCycle makes a difference to the lives of many. Each guest has different needs, yet all are made welcome at our projects. "I don't have any food at home because I only have £8 a week to live on, so FoodCycle is a godsend to me. The food service and volunteers are fantastic" Guest, FoodCycle Durham "I come here because I was on the streets, sleeping on park benches. The only way I can describe homelessness is humiliating. Out of 10, I'd give FoodCycle 11! People leave here with happy faces and full tummies." Guest, FoodCycle Manchester "Since my husband died I don't like to cook just for myself, so this is perfect matter who you are, you are always made to feel welcome". 87-year-old guest at FoodCycle Cambridge

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Since May 2019, we have opened 19 community 'hubs' and one FoodCycle cafe. We have served over 112,000 meals, reclaimed over 130,000 kg of food (the equivalent of saving 585,000kg in CO2 emissions), and our network of volunteers have given over 89,000 hours of their time. 73% of guests are eating more fruit and veg since attending FoodCycle 85% have made new friends 80% of FoodCycle cafe customers are more aware of food waste 89% of volunteers feel more inclined to get involved in other community activities. Our scaling means that by 2017 42 FoodCycle hubs will serve 51,000 meals each year, using over 100,000kg of surplus food that would otherwise be wasted. An additional cafe will provide 100 training opportunities each year for people looking to develop the skills and confidence to gain employment, whilst providing affordable meals in a highly deprived area.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

FoodCycle has developed a social franchise model that enables growth in a sustainable and effective way. Hubs are run by partner organisations who recognise the benefits of working with FoodCycle in terms of tapping into our surplus food supply, recruiting volunteers, and using our brand to attract funding and support. Our cafe model also has the potential to be a UK-wide programme, and we are currently in discussions with both commercial and non-profit organisations to find a suitable model for scaling up. We will continue to campaign to ensure less food is wasted.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We receive support from trusts and foundations, corporates, government funding, individuals and events. We also generate income through our franchise fees and through cafe and catering sales. One of the central tenets of our expansion plans is creating models that increase our sustainability by sharing responsibility with other organisations. Long term, we know we will achieve retailer and commercial financial support once we have expanded.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Trussell Trust and other independent foodbanks provide emergency food provision. FoodCycle differs since our outcomes focus on long-term change in beneficiaries – healthier eating, increased feelings of belonging to a community, and increased volunteering, training and work opportunities. Fareshare also intercepts supermarket waste in the UK. Fareshare works at depot level of the supply chain, distributing food to other charities whilst FoodCycle collects from local retail outlets and delivers frontline services. Together Fareshare and FoodCycle offer a comprehensive solution to food waste.

Founding Story

Kelvin Cheung founded FoodCycle. These are his words: "May 10th 2009 will always be remembered as that pivotal day in FoodCycle's history. After 6 months of getting the key ingredients of food, volunteers, and a kitchen together for the first FoodCycle meal ever it was game time. We've learned a lot since that first time but one thing has always stayed the same: the conviction that, with an eclectic mix of surplus ingredients and a bit of elbow grease, a group of committed volunteers can create a meal that makes a difference to people's lives. It was just a bunch of young people having fun in a kitchen back then but little did we know we were onto something much bigger - we were at the beginning of an entire movement."


FoodCycle has incredible talent within the organisation –our trustees, management committee, staff and volunteers make FoodCycle the organisation it is today. Our Chief Executive, Mary McGrath, brings a wealth of experience to the organisation and is supported by a team of ten, including operations, fundraising, and marketing specialists. Our trustees' diverse backgrounds ensure we have the skillset and expertise to support UK-wide expansion.
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Country where this project is creating social impact
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, Foundations, Businesses, Regional government, National government.

Awards: What awards or honors has the project received?

FoodCycle is the winner of Charity Times’ ‘Best New Charity’ 2010, the Prime Minister’s ‘Big Society Award’ 2011, the DSC ‘Everyday Impact’ Award 2012, and ‘Best Community Initiative’ at the 2014 Climate Week Awards. We were also shortlisted for Third Secto Sr Excellence Awards ‘Small Charity, Big Achiever’ 2012, The Guardian Charity Award 2012, 2013, and 2014 and we were ‘Highly Commended’ at the Charity Awards 2014.

Where have you learnt about the competition?

Candice Mazzoleni
Network Coordinator Europe, Ashoka Changemakers

Tell us about your partnerships:

Community partnerships. To ensure we reach those in need. Over 50 charities and local organisations including Mind, Age Concern, Student Action for Refugees, Longsight, and the FoodChain.
Retail partnerships: To support collection of surplus food. Major supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda alongside independent retailers.
Campaigning partnerships. To support change. Includes Fareshare, Feedback, Oxfam, and Community Shop.

Challenges: What challenges might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

The position of food poverty on the political agenda is ever changing - at times its existence comes into question(despite clear evidence), at other points blame is placed on people's inability to budget or to cook.
We overcome these barriers by placing at the heart of the debate the fact that in the UK 400,000 tonnes of usable surplus food can be saved from supermarkets each year. The need to strengthen communities, to make the most our resources, and to bring people together through communal meals should always be valued, no matter the economic fortunes of a country at any point in time.


Great dedication for the community, I like it. Thanks for the great project.

Andres Hammerman's picture

While living in Washington DC I lived outdoors in the streets and parks, dumpster dived, worked in soup kitchens, drove a van picking up waste food from stores and restaurants - so I know first hand the importance of your work and what is considered common amounts of waste in a large city. Great Project and Congratulations!

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