Congratulations! This Entry has been selected as a finalist.


United KingdomUnited Kingdom
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$250,000 - $500,000
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 a spare kitchen space to create nutritious meals for people at risk from food poverty.

Our unique concept achieves four main aims:

· Tackles food poverty by providing nutritious meals to those in need.

· Reduce food waste by reclaiming it for cooking.

· Empower and train volunteers to create positive change in their local community.

· Build stronger communities through community dining events and reducing social isolation.

FoodCycle realizes these aims through a national network of 16 volunteer-powered community projects. FoodCycle is run by 10 employees and has a national network of over 600 volunteers.

Since we started cooking in May 2009 we have:

· Served over 35,000 meals.

· Reclaimed over 29,000 kg of food.

· Our volunteers have given over 25,000 hours of their time.

· Partnerships with over 50 charities nationwide – including Age Concern, MIND, FareShare, The Bromley By Bow Centre, Salvation Army, and Asylum Link.

We are currently planning for a much larger expansion of our services, as we have been getting about 20 calls a month from communities all across the UK on how to start one in their community!

Our vision is to build a national FoodCycle network that reaches every city and town in the UK. We want to be the Scouts or the Girl Guides– but with food!

Why should you vote for us?! In these times of food price increases, rising diet-related illnesses and community disengagement, FoodCycle is a model that is highly relevant for the future. It has minimal ecological footprint and is a self-sustaining community based model that tackles food waste, reduces food poverty and empowers local citizens to create a stronger community.

It’s a winner for all those involved!

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Food Poverty - It is estimated that more than 4 million people are affected by ‘food poverty’ in the UK. This is estimated to cost the NHS £13bn per year. Food Waste - At least 400,000 tons of sable surplus food can be saved from supermarkets each year at the local level. Community Cohesion – ‘Community life in Britain has weakened substantially over the past 30 years…97% of communities in the UK have become more socially fragmented during this time’. Unemployment, volunteering and skills development - Over 2.4 million people in the UK are currently searching for work and volunteering provides a great way for jobseekers to gain important skills and experience.

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

FoodCycle builds communities by combining volunteers, surplus food and a spare kitchen space to create nutritious meals for people at risk from food poverty. We have four main aims: • Tackle food poverty by providing nutritious meals to those in need • Reduce food waste by reclaiming it for use • Empower and train volunteers to create positive change in their local community • Build stronger communities through community dining events and reducing social isolation FoodCycle realizes these aims through a national network of volunteer-powered community projects. All our projects collect, cook, and serve the delicious three course meals for people at risk of food poverty in their local communities. Our projects currently operate in Bath, Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, Clacton on Sea, Durham, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, and Norwich.

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

FoodCycle is one of two national charities that intercept supermarket waste in the UK, the other being FareShare. Together we offer a more comprehensive solution to food waste and food poverty in the UK by intercepting and reclaiming surplus food at multiple stages of the supply chain and distributing it in different ways. FareShare intercepts surplus food from manufacturers and depots whereas FoodCycle collects the surplus food that could not be sold from local retail outlets. At FoodCycle, by offering communal dining experiences and involving local volunteers, we work directly to address social isolation and promote community cohesion. FoodCycle sits with FareShare on the Mayor of London’s Food Waste Strategy Board.
About You
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The competition is only open to people between 18-34 years-old and resident in UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark or the Netherlands. Does this apply to you


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Tell us about your personal background. Why are you passionate about this issue? Making an idea a reality takes innovation, dedication and strong leadership. Do you have the necessary entrepreneurial skills to realize your vision?

I am passionate about food, community empowerment, not wasting food, cycling, and eating! That's why I created FoodCycle, which are all the things I love to do crammed into one activity! I can say I have the dedication, leadership, and entrepreneurial skills to take this vision to reality, but those are just words in this little funny box. So I'll let the results speak for themselves. We started cooking almost 3 years ago, and now, FoodCycle is in 16 communities across the country, and our network of over 600 volunteers cook delicious meals for those at risk of food poverty all year around. We've served over 34,000 three course meals, reclaimed over 22,000 kg of food, and created more vibrant and inclusive communities all across the UK.

About Your Organization
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The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities

FoodCycle operates two main programmes:

Hubs – The Hubs are local projects where volunteers are trained up, supported and empowered to collect surplus food and cook it in spare kitchen spaces. Working with community partners we then provide healthy, communal meals to those at risk from food poverty and social isolation in the local community. Using our triple donation model of time, food and venue, we keep direct costs low and can recreate the model in almost any community. FoodCycle Central provides essential support throughout the year, including food safety training, insurance, local fundraising support, and cooking and nutrition skills.

For example:
- The FoodCycle Hub at the London School of Economics works with the Holy Cross Centre Trust and cooks for the homeless, refugees and asylum seekers in the community.
- The Liverpool Hub works with the Kensington Methodist Church, Asylum Link Merseyside and the Salvation Army, cooking up nutritious meals to those on low-incomes, asylum seekers, refugees, and the homeless.

“I heard about FoodCycle and came with my late husband. Since he has died I don't like to cook just for myself, so this is perfect and I am grateful... I come here to meet all kinds of people... no matter who you are you are always made to feel welcome.” - Virgina Cole, beneficiary at FoodCycle Cambridge

Community Cafés – Using surplus food, our 2 Community Cafes in London are run by volunteers from vulnerable groups in the community – including people with mental health issues, NEETS, and the long termed unemployed from BAME communities. Serving over 50 heads per service during lunchtime, the bustling cafés provide confidence, employment skills and cooking skills for the volunteers that are involved. A member of staff supervises the daily operations and recruits more volunteers. Delicious and healthy meals are served at affordable prices to the local community – in both communities the cafes offer one of the cheapest and healthiest meal options in the local area. We currently partner with the Bromley by Bow Employment Centre, MIND Haringey, City Gateway and the Shoreditch Trust to provide the café with volunteers that are keen to get experience in the food catering industry.

“Volunteering gives you a sense you’re contributing to society rather than being a burden. It gives you a sense of purpose and always
looks good on your CV.” – Malcolm, Station House Café volunteer and MIND service user.

Select the stage that best applies to your business

Operating for 1-5 years

Social Impact
What is the social impact you have had to date and how you measure it?

Since we started cooking in May 2009 we have:
• Served over 34,000 meals.
• Reclaimed over 24,000 kg of food.
• A network of over 600 volunteers each year.
• Built partnerships with over 50 charities nationwide – including Age Concern, MIND, FareShare, The Bromley By Bow Centre, Salvation Army, and Asylum Link.

We are currently developing our long term strategy on impact measurement, because our impact goes far beyond the meals served and the food saved. FoodCycle builds communities, increases community cohesion, gives our volunteers inspiration to start up their own social enterprises and charities, and gives NEETs and the unemployed skills and confidence to get into the work force, often in the catering industry! We are currently formulating a strategy for capturing this.

What barriers might hinder the success of your business? How do you plan to overcome them?

Our major barrier is scale. Right now, we've got a staff of 9 people looking after 16 projects that have over 600 volunteers. We believe that there is the potential to have a FoodCycle Hub in every town and city, kind of like having your local Boy Scouts or Girl Guiding branch! To achieve our ambitions, it's not about getting more staff - it's about creating the systems, operational models and infrastructure that can handle this kind of scale. We are currently doing feasibility studies into the scaling model for FoodCycle and also investing in an online community platform to help manage and support our network of volunteers.

How does your model address financial, social, and environmental sustainability?

Financial - Our model is low cost - donated food, volunteer time and spare kitchen spaces. As we scale, we tap into economies of scale for food safety training, insurance, marketing/branding, and also in volunteer management and reporting.
In terms of financial sustainability, on average, each Hub costs £7,500 to run. FoodCycle Central currently fundraises £5,000 of this, and each local project has to make up for the other £2,500. As they mature, each Hub will be expected to raise more for their own sustainability. Each Hub decides how they raise this money - accepting donations for meals, doing fundraisers, start a 'cross subsidised model' - each are different depending on the community.

As we expand, we are looking into a membership model for local organisations to sign up to so the fundraising responsibility as we grow will not fall too much on FoodCycle Central.

Centrally, we are developing alternative revenue sources as well, including public fundraising and events!

Social - All our projects are developed from the grassroots level with local citizens making the big decisions on who to serve, how it is run, etc. This increases the chances that the FoodCycle Hub developed will serve the needs of the community.

Environmental - 80% of the food we used is food that otherwise would have been thrown away and currently there is so much we can't even take it all!

Awareness & learning
How do you see social entrepreneurship contributing to the improvement of developing countries?

I see social enterprise as a key way to change the world. Market incentives, balanced with the desire to do social good can have a much bigger impact that traditional charity. Many examples show that when market mechanisms and social goods are combined, the impact can be much greater. From solar panels, mosquito nets, malarial pills, mobile phones... there are great examples of how new social business models are challenging the way business should be done. I guess the challenge in the immediate future is to develop businesses in developing countries to all be social businesses - so social enterprise is the norm, and not something on the side that is a bit cute and neat!

What aspects of your stay in Uganda as part of the competition do you think you will find most challenging and rewarding?

Key challenge - trying to understand and then offer advice or help in the issues that Ugandans face, as solutions are often complex, and really getting into the root cause of the environmental, social and economic problems are always more complex than say, 'fair trade vanilla'.

Rewarding - that in the face of all the challenges and problems, I'm sure that they have come up with very good solutions to tackle the issues with few resources. I intend to take this inspiration and use that to further the growth of FoodCycle in the UK.