Volunteer Drivers in London Fighting Hunger and Food Waste

Interested in getting in a van and volunteering as volunteer driver or co-driver fighting food waste in London? Read Andy's impression of a day out in the van to see how much fun it is to volunteer in London with The Felix Project

It’s Friday and finally a dry and sunny morning.

I cycle to the Enfield depot of The Felix Project, put on my yellow hi-vis and start loading up one of the refrigerated vans with my morning co-drivers, Caroline and Dave.

We have a great range of produce today – root vegetables, chilled salads and drinks, dry goods, bread, rice, some super fresh oranges and bananas as well as some chicken and pork. Everything smells... well... just fresh!

My name is Andy, I work in marketing and communications, and I’ve been a volunteer at Felix for 6 months now and the range of produce that we are able to source from retailers and manufacturers is quite incredible.

And to think, the majority would go to animal feed or landfill if we didn’t intervene to re-distribute it to good causes within the community!

We have two well-stocked vans going out at 9am, with 6 deliveries each, and there will be a school run later this morning, covering 6 local primary schools. And when the vans return to base at lunchtime, they will be loaded up again for afternoon runs. It’s non-stop action.

And with 2 or 3 volunteers on each run and 2 or 3 sorting out crates at the depot, it’s a service that relies on the availability and goodwill of local volunteers.

Luckily, the sense of satisfaction of volunteering with Felix is doubled as we are both saving good food that would otherwise go to waste and we are re-routing the food to people who really need it. So those who have already discovered Felix tend to be loyal – but we do need more and more volunteers!

Our route this morning will take us through Edmonton, Tottenham and Stoke Newington and we will return via Islington and Finsbury Park. So we’ll see Tottenham and Arsenal football grounds and, as rush hour is over, we’ll have a fairly hassle-free tour of North London.

We’ll deliver much-needed food to a range of charities and community groups – who in turn will either prepare meals or distribute food parcels within their groups.

We set off and quickly reach our first drop-off – the St Vincent DePaul community group in Edmonton. The team there is expecting us. They will be preparing hot meals for lunch for up to 100 local people today.

Tables are already laid out in expectation of a big turn-out and all the helpers need now is our delivery to provide all the ingredients for the lunch.

Dave, Caroline and I unload the van and hurry inside with 14 crates of food.

As with all the groups we deliver to we receive a warm and grateful welcome – we are offered tea and help with unloading while the cooking team look through the delivery and put together a lunch menu as they go.

Before we leave the team have already started peeling potatoes and preparing lunch.

To see the food put to immediate and such good use makes us feel even better about the work we are doing.

We jump back in the van and head off through Tottenham where our second drop is at a food bank at the Holy Trinity Church.

Food banks have proliferated in recent years and are now found in a range of community locations all over London – and beyond. Here at Holy Trinity the church’s meeting room is turned into a large food bank every Friday.

We have arrived a little early today - the food bank team haven’t arrived yet so the wonderful Vicar opens up the meeting room and helps us unload.

We can see how much the delivery means to him – and he thanks us profusely before we set off towards the centre of town.

After the Church food bank we deliver to a Recovery centre in south Islington and then head back northwards to a community centre.

The sun is no longer shining but the rain is holding off and the chatter in the van keeps flowing.

One of the best aspects of volunteering at The Felix Project is the people you meet and work with. Everyone is of course motivated by the idea of ‘giving something back’ and contributing to local communities – but there’s a real sense of community within the team itself.

There are people of all ages and backgrounds and you can find yourself working alongside an ex barrister one day and a professional photographer the next. There are many people here who, like me, feel that this is an important and rewarding way to spend what would otherwise be free time.

Our homeward-bound drops take us to an adventure playground and another community centre.

The adventure playground is just off the Caledonian Road, near Pentonville prison. And it’s an oasis of calm in a busy part of the city.

Kids of all ages come here after school and at weekends and are increasingly dependent on the centre for hot and nutritious meals.

The manager of the centre helps us carry the crates in and tells us that Friday is a particularly busy day as so many children come at the end of the school week to mix and hang out with friends from a number of local schools.

Our last drop is in the middle of a housing estate in Finsbury Park. We stack up the crates in the community centre, load up with empty crates form last week’s delivery and head back to base in Enfield.

Once we unload the empty crates we have the satisfying sight of an empty van – and hand over to the next group of volunteers to take care of the afternoon run.

Until next time…