Making good use of surplus food
Borough Market is known across London for its high quality British and international produce. Like all the best food markets the world over, the market buzzes with a special sense of community created when people come together to discover, to taste, to experience and to buy food.
It is that same community spirit that drives a highly successful partnership between Borough Market and the food redistribution charity Plan Zheroes, set up to make sure surplus food from the market is put to good use. The scheme, which has been running since 2014, follows circular economy principles by rescuing between 300 and 400kg of high quality produce from the market every week to be given free to charities across London.
“It started back in 2014 under the Food Save initiative, a programme run by the Mayor of London and the London Waste and Recycling Board, to help small businesses reduce food waste,” explains Laura Hopper of Plan Zheroes. “Together with Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, we set up a partnership with the market which has gone from strength to strength ever since.”
Circular thinking, zero waste
Borough Market promotes a responsible, sustainable approach to food production and consumption. Traders and tenants are encouraged to do what they can to plan effectively and store food appropriately but footfall at the market, the weather and individual shopping habits, are never entirely predictable and some surplus is inevitable.
“We want to encourage the food industry to eliminate food waste by making sure that leftover produce can reach those most in need,” said Darren Henaghan, Managing Director, Borough Market.
Working with the market and its traders, Plan Zheroes co-ordinates the twice-weekly collections on Wednesdays and Saturdays. When the market closes at 5pm, volunteers gather up all the surplus produce from the stallholders, ready to be collected by charities and community groups who have signed up for the scheme. Donations include fruit and vegetables, bread and baked good, meat, fish and diary.
“There is a sense of community around the whole project as the traders and charities get to know each other,” says Laura. “Everyone likes to know where the food has come from, where it is going and how it will make a difference. It is a chance to make a real connection.”
Where does it all go?
Charities benefiting from the market produce include: Dragon Café, run by Mental Fight Club which serves up meals to people who have experienced mental health problems; The Healthy Living Club, a community group which provides meals and activities for people with dementia and their carers and St Mungo’s, a homelessness charity and housing association that provides shelter and support to more than 2,500 people a night throughout London and the Southeast.
“It’s amazing what has been achieved at Borough Market, “ says Laura. “We’re so grateful to the market team for their support and help in developing this initiative. This project is a great example of how we can all work together to ensure that good food gets to people who need it rather than end up as waste.”
Collaborate and increase circular economy activity in London