Volunteer Blog: Katie's experience doing the central London evening shift

Ever thought there was a problem with food waste but didn’t know what do about it? Let me tell you about the Felix project and my experience as a volunteer. This fascinating, proactive project was drawn to my attention via a friend, Becky. The Felix project is a kind of umbrella charity that collects surplus food from various supermarkets and high street food shops. Instead of letting all this perfectly edible food go to waste, we deliver it to the people in need by working with various food poverty charities all over the city.

Food waste has always been a bugbear of mine. We live in such a structured and advanced society here in London, why is it that there are people going hungry? More to the point, how can I help?

I am 25 years old and work full time, Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton would be proud. Many of you are probably part of the rat race that we love/hate here in London. Working in Covent Garden as a chef for an independent café, I often get halfway through the week and I feel exhausted.

How could I find time for The Felix project – such a worthwhile cause?

There are many different ways to get involved with the Felix project. As a warehouse assistant you help to clean, tidy and organize donations ready to be delivered to charities. This seemed like a good option for me but it was simply impossible due to my job.

You can also be a driver – or helper if like me you haven't got around to passing your test – where you take out a van for delivery and collection runs, helping with loading and unloading the surplus produce. They have evening shifts throughout the week. BINGO! This was my way to get involved.

Starting from 6PM, there are usually 3 to 4 routes every evening so many volunteers are needed to make sure this operation runs smoothly and efficiently. I booked in for my first shift on a Tuesday evening. An online timetable lets you keep track of the different routes. You can book yourself in for any shift as they become available. The Felix project never requires more than 3 hours of your time.

I left work full of anticipation and excitement. Upon arrival, I met my driver for the evening. Tash was a very smiley, kind woman with a positive character. We hopped into the van and looked at the printed route sheet.

Our first stop was at EAT. I was in absolute shock at the crates of food that would have ended up in the bin!

Amazingly, this was just our first pick up. The organizers have planned the routes in such a way that pick up to pick up is logistically savvy and within very close proximity to one another. The route is very sleek and unstressful, something I was not expecting in the heart of London.

Depending on the day you choose, different people may be sitting next to you in the van, each with their own story and background. This diversity keeps thing interesting and social. In my experience, by sharing vans you can create strong bonds with a wide range of people, all connected by a shared cause of fighting the food waste crisis and wanting to help. You can also choose the same shift and try to share it with a particular person. I sometimes like to do my shifts with my friend Becky.

Upon finishing the pickups, we had a van full of delicious read-to-eat food consisting of a selection of sandwiches, salads, cakes, and bread. To think this all would have been thrown away was a harrowing thought. Our next task was to deliver all the surplus food to the designated charities, which are conveniently located near the pickup points.

We split the donations equally and arrived at our first charity, a women's hostel, where a receptionist received the donation with great gratitude. We then moved on to the next two charities and finished that evening’s delivery. Everyone was extremely warm and grateful to us. By the time I arrived home I felt a strange mixture of emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

Driving the empty van back to the car park, the radio playing in the background, I has this warm feeling that the person sitting next to me was no stranger, but a friend.

The Felix project is helping to prevent hunger across the board here in London. They cooperate with anybody who is in need, including children, the homeless community and the elderly, just to name a few examples. What a fantastic project. “I want to be a part of this,” I thought to myself.

That Tuesday evening I could have been sitting in a pub, laying on the sofa watching TV or having a nice dinner. What real impact would that have had on my life? And upon others? It was question of how to use my time.

Food poverty shouldn't be a problem here in London. If we all work collectively together to prevent food waste, to get involved, albeit a few hours a week with organizations like this, we can make a change. The great work done by the Felix project proves that.

Therefore, I signed up for another shift. Six months down the line I still volunteer here. If you are not sure what route is best for you just send an email to them, they can guide you in the right direction.

Don't worry if you can't do every week, do it fortnightly or once a month. The key thing is to get involved!

It may sound cheesy but participating actively in social change really does make you feel lighter and inspired, more self-assured and generally, happier.

The journey so far has been an incredible one. All I can say is give it a try!