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Help a Hungry Child: The two tonnes of food in this warehouse was destined for landfill - here's how it won't go to waste

The Independent Christmas appeal with The Felix Project will ensure no child in any primary school supported by the charity goes hungry

Lucy Pasha-Robinson@lucypasha
Tuesday 28 November 2017 12:00
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Help A Hungry Child: Independent teams up with The Felix Project to tackle food poverty

A tower of gleaming cucumbers looms over the entrance to The Felix Project’s depot in West London. Teetering close by are piles of onions, aubergine and fennel and a little further, crates are loaded with a shock of orange pumpkins.

It would be easy to picture this bounty of produce on display at a farmers’ market, or lining the shelves of an organic supermarket. Instead, this is a creative antidote to London’s food waste epidemic.

Every item of the two tonnes which fills this small warehouse would have gone straight to landfill if it hadn’t been intercepted by the food waste charity. Now, volunteers in high-vis jackets are sorting, stacking and loading heaving crates into the charity’s fleet of green vans. Soon, they will whisk the two tonnes of food straight back out to be delivered to food banks, soup kitchens and refuges across the capital.

At least 500,000 children across the UK are going to school hungry each day because their parents cannot afford to feed them. Yet more than 10 million tonnes of food was thrown away in 2016.

That’s why for this year’s Christmas campaign, The Independent is partnering with The Felix Project to ensure no child goes without while there is food available.

Money raised will go towards helping the charity deliver fresh, nutritious produce collected from more than 90 suppliers, directly to disadvantaged schoolchildren and their families.

How The Felix Project will take aim at child hunger

 

At the end of the school day, children and their parents will be guided to a Felix market stall and be able to fill a paper bag with items to take home.

The stall will be set up in a prominent position at the school and parents will be encouraged to help their children make their choices.

All the food on offer will be items donated by supermarkets, wholesalers and other suppliers that they have been unable to sell, despite being in-date, safe and nutritious. 

 

A volunteer holds a crate of vegetables destined for the bin

Mother-of-three Tara told The Independent she is often forced to send her eight-year-old daughter, Emma, to school without breakfast when money doesn’t stretch far enough.

“Money is tight so sometimes that does happen. She says: ‘Mummy I’m tired, I can’t do my work’,” she said. “Often I will go without anything so they at least get something to eat.”

The charity will set up market stalls, loaded with fruit, vegetables and bread, in 120 of London’s most deprived schools over the next two years – including Emma’s school in Ealing, Stanhope Primary. The programme will also extend beyond London into other regions of the country.

Crucially, all parents and children will be encouraged to drop in and help themselves to the produce, removing the stigma of singling out specific families in need. ​

‘It still surprises me that hunger is a problem in 2017’

 

“I wish this problem could just be taken off the table. There are so many social issues that exist, and food just shouldn’t be one of them in this day and age,” Stanhope Primary headteacher Sahreen Siddiqui said. 

“As a headteacher what you are ultimately here to do is improve lives. I am a firm believer in an optimistic approach.

“My dream for these children is to raise their aspirations and make the world their oyster. They need to know how to look after themselves both emotionally and physically in order to make that dream a reality.”

 

The charity’s aim is not just to support these young families, but to break down the barriers to accessing nutritious food.

Pat Caplan, poverty expert from Goldsmiths University, said food is often the most “elastic” part of a household budget and where people end up making the biggest sacrifices.

“Many people go without food altogether or they buy less or inferior quality food, which many of them know is inferior but they will buy the cheapest,” she said.

This is something Emma’s mum Tara knows all too well. “We eat a lot of pasta because it’s cheap and sometimes microwave meals but if fruit and vegetables are there, then we would definitely cook with them,” she said.

“Healthwise I think The Felix Project stall will really help all of us. I hope it will also encourage my kids to enjoy fruit and vegetables.”

Felix’s CEO Hilary Croft sorts a crate of carrots that would have been thrown away

‘Parents are being forced to make terrible sacrifices to feed their children’

 

The Felix Project’s CEO Hilary Croft told The Independent she was horrified to hear of some of the desperate measures parents were having to take.  

“One story that was particularly shocking was where an individual seemed to be accessing a lot of toilet roll in the food bank and when finally someone asked them the reason why it was because they wanted to give the food to their family and they were eating the toilet rolls so that their family don’t go hungry,” she said. “That is just one of the most heartbreaking things.”

She said the charity wanted to help create a fairer society where families are not forced to make sacrifices to put a healthy meal on the table. 

The market stalls will focus on fresh produce rather than packets or tins which parents might find in a food bank. 

“There has been a tendency to fill children up with only chips or bread, things that don’t have the whole range of nutrients,” she said. 

“If children aren’t eating well, they don’t develop well and they are stopped from having the future that we would want for them.

“We understand that poverty and social injustice exist, but it’s the fact that food poverty is so avoidable in this country that is maddening. Solved by putting in place simple measures of redistribution – connecting surplus food with people who need it – it’s such an obvious solution to two problems.”

 

Deliveries to two London schools will start on Wednesday 29 and Thursday 30 November, and with the public's help the campaign is expected to reach 50,000 children and their families within two years.

Every £1 donated will guarantee a primary school child and their family the food needed for a nutritious meal. £500 will allow a new school to be recruited to the programme.

Here are the ways you can donate to our Christmas appeal:

Call – Freephone – 08000 639 281

Text – FELIX £5 to 70700

Click independent.co.uk/helpahungrychild

Post – Freepost – HELP A HUNGRY CHILD

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