September 7, 2020 • Food5 min read

Charity Spotlight: City Harvest

In 2019 we partnered with City Harvest to ensure last-minute cancelled food orders didn’t go to waste. Following Saturday’s UN Day of Charity, we wanted to shine a light on what this brilliant organisation does for vulnerable people and the planet.

Saturday 5th September marked the UN’s International Day of Charity, a day established with the objective of mobilising people, NGOs, and stakeholders to help others through volunteer and philanthropic activities. 

Since 2019, we’ve been partnering with City Harvest, a charity that redistributes surplus food to those who need it most, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to shine a light on their incredible work!


Londoners alone miss 9.2 million meals every month due to food poverty, but City Harvest knew they could change that. The charity was set up in 2014 with the aim of rescuing perfectly edible but unwanted food to feed vulnerable communities around London, fighting both food waste and hunger at the same time. 

The team of employees and volunteers, many of whom have experienced homelessness and hunger first-hand, source surplus food from all segments of the food industry, including restaurants, grocers, manufacturers, wholesalers, hotels, and caterers. 

They then deliver that food to over 300 organisations around London, such as food banks, homeless shelters, and community groups, who in turn distribute meals and food parcels to those in need.

Each week City Harvest rescues 170,00 meals from reaching landfill and has saved over £14 million worth of food since its establishment. This effort has helped to feed over 12 million people facing hunger since 2014. 

Not only does this help vulnerable communities, but it’s also great for the planet too! When food ends up in landfill it releases greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change. By diverting food from landfill, City Harvest has offset 14,000 tonnes of greenhouses gases so farl!

According to City Harvest, the amount of food wasted by businesses is huge - 13.4 million meals worth of food every month! So, in February 2019, City Pantry decided to partner with City Harvest as a way of reducing the amount of food waste created by last-minute food order cancellations. 

Since then, City Pantry and City Harvest have redistributed over 6,000 meals worth of food to vulnerable communities across London, which has helped to offset over 9.5 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Two City Harvest volunteers packing boxes of potatoes into a yellow City Pantry van

And then COVID-19 hit the UK in March 2020. Lockdown was undoubtedly a stressful time for all, but it was particularly hard for those already living in poverty or forced into poverty due to Coronavirus. In fact, record numbers turned to food banks during the first month of lockdown. The Trussel Trust said it gave out 89% more food parcels in April compared to the same month last year.

Thankfully, City Harvest stepped up to the challenge and managed to deliver over 2 million meals to those in need during lockdown. As part of our own #FeedYourCommunity initiative, we delivered over 8,000 meals and sweet treats - donated by our generous customers - to City Harvest for them to redirect to vulnerable communities and frontline institutions around London.

Francesca from City Harvest said: Even during the best of times, many Londoners go without items we take for granted. I don’t think I can convey how much a small treat like doughnuts, brownies, or takeaway meals meant to some of our groups, especially in a time of extreme crisis such as the COVID lockdown.”

We also wanted to help give back to the amazing City Harvest volunteers during this difficult time, so we sent some sweet treats to their warehouse for the team to enjoy - and enjoy they did!

City Harvest volunteer enjoying a doughnut

“I am not sure we would have gotten through the chaos without the treats from City Pantry for the volunteers and the extra hands from Guilherme, the allocated driver from City Pantry,” Francesca continued.

Guilherme next to the City Pantry yellow van with a thumbs up

On September 18th, City Harvest is hosting the City Harvest Festival, an annual celebration of the power of kindness. And the team invites anyone who can to give a virtual food box for £25, £50, or any value of your choosing. These virtual food boxes will help City Harvest to continue delivering surplus food to those in need.

There will also be an outdoor exhibition, entitled ‘Kindness is Powerful’, highlighting the incredible people who feed those in need using City Harvest's food. The photography and artwork are by Andrew McLeay. Kindness is so powerful and this exhibition shows the positive social impact of food and how it saves and transforms lives. As part of Baker Street Quarter’s food event ‘Autumn Graze’, the exhibition will be held from 22-24th September at 12pm-8.30pm in Portman Square Garden, Marylebone.


If your business would like to make sure surplus food goes to a good home, please email City Harvest at food@cityharvest.org.uk. City Harvest is also currently looking for volunteers to help distribute food. If you or someone you know may be interested, please sign up at this link.