One in eight people in Britain go hungry every day, and yet there is a nationwide food surplus amounting to over £13 billion per year. Laura Winningham aims to address this issue head on in the capital, with City Harvest London.
Inspired by a similar American model, since launching in London in 2014 City Harvest has rescued and redistributed over 2 million meals. “We are so deeply ingrained in the community,” Laura told Michael Hayman on Sunday’s episode of the Capital Conversation. “My drivers – the people who go out every day – have connections in the community. We go very deep.”
The Grenfell Tower fire put the necessity of City Harvest’s work and its hyperlocal impact into context. It was the first food charity on the scene, as Laura vividly remembers: “The towers were in the background burning and the people helping us unload the van of food had family members there.”
Founded in West London, City Harvest already had close links with the Grenfell community. Laura and her team provided breakfast in the churches sheltering survivors, continued to feed displaced residents in the immediate aftermath, and still supplies community projects in the area.
Even with the efforts of City Harvest and others, hunger in London is growing; the number of people visiting food banks in Hammersmith and Fulham alone has risen by 69 per cent. And this isn’t just the homeless on the street: “It’s actually the working poor. These are people who have jobs, they have homes, they have families, but at the end of the month they’ve run out of money.”
Laura has hope for the future, having seen a huge change amongst businesses and organisations in recent years: “I think most businesses want to get food to people. I think the limiting factor has been [the lack of] a logistics service that is efficient and reliable and works with their business.”
The current challenge? “Educating the store manager. Even though [the message] comes from head office, saying ‘please distribute this food to the outside community,’ it’s up to that person in the back of the store to make the decision.”
London’s waste and food poverty problems are fundamental challenges, but as a former Wall Street analyst, Laura knows how to engage with a problem and implement a solution.
Watch the full episode here.
Learn more about City Harvest London here.