Charity City Harvest collects surplus food from supermarkets, restaurants and wholesalers, and redistributes it to those in need through charities in and around Hammersmith & Fulham.
Head of Operations Paula Merrony tells us more about City Harvest’s work and how you can help support them.
What do you do?
I am head of operations which includes organising all the regular collections and drops for each day.
I also help find new charities who need our support and food donors who want to give us food items and look for new routes for us to explore and expand on.
How long have you worked there? What has changed over that time?
Nearly a year but I have been aware of the project in its development for the last three years. In the last year the number of people from all walks of life needing help to make ends meet has increased massively and we are inundated with requests for help daily.
The mixture of people accessing the winter night shelters and the community groups includes people of all ages and backgrounds and there are more women and older people falling out of the system with no safety net. People who are working are finding themselves on the street. It really is overwhelming at times and very, very sad.
How do you think you’ve made a difference to people’s lives?
Working with City Harvest is incredibly rewarding and humbling as we meet people daily who give up their time to work with some of our most vulnerable residents.
Our food enables projects to spread their resources further so they can provide broader services to their members like counselling, health checks or podiatry services.
We help to feed people’s stomachs while the shelters and drop-in centres look after their guests’ minds, bodies and souls.
How are you funded?
We have five vehicles - all chiller vans - on the road which have been donated by businesses we work wìth.
We have received small donations from various other places who have run events to raise money for us and we ask for donations from the donor organisations in recognition of the savings our food rescue has helped them make by not sending the food to landfill.
We cannot charge for the food we deliver but ask our recipient groups to make a small donation towards our delivery costs.
Funding is a problem but we have kept our costs down by working virtually and using our vans and local cafe's as offices. We have only recently been able to pay staff regularly and rely heavily on volunteers to fill the gaps.
What are your plans for the future?
We are too busy now to carry on being virtual and need to secure premises for storage and offices. By having a base we will be able to apply for larger grants, which, if we are successful, will give us security and enàble us to work more efficiently, getting the food circulated to everyone who needs it.
Can people get involved to help you?
We welcome any offer of help from our community, from a few hours volunteering here and there to regular whole days. We need help for the drivers out on the routes and when we get our base we will need help in the warehouse and with some admin work.