Environmental charity Hubbub will deploy a fleet of electric vehicles to deliver surplus food to communities in Milton Keynes unable to access food banks and community fridges during the lockdown
Environmental charity Hubbub has launched a pilot low-carbon food delivery service for households struggling to access food due to lockdown restrictions or financial insecurity.
The low-carbon delivery service, launched today in Milton Keynes, relies on a fleet of electric bikes and vans to ferry fresh surplus food from local retailers to vulnerable households.
The fleet of electric delivery vehicles was funded in part by the government's eCargo Bike Grant Fund, a £2m fund to support low-carbon delivery services that is administered by the Energy Saving Trust. CAF Venturesome and the National Lottery Community Fund have also backed the pilot project.
Hubbub is aiming to replicate the low-carbon service, dubbed 'Food Connect', in other parts of country where community fridge and food bank operations have been disrupted by the pandemic.
"We're pleased to be part of this effort during the pandemic to reach some of our most vulnerable residents in Milton Keynes," said Helen Innes, project co-ordinator for Food Connect. "Even before Covid-19, getting surplus food that final mile to the community fridge was a challenge, so this fleet will have a huge impact through lockdown and beyond as we begin to reopen to the wider community."
Community fridges are refrigerators in public spaces that are shared by locals in a bid to reduce food waste and provide fresh food to vulnerable people.
But social distancing measures enacted due to Covid-19 have prompted many of the UK's community fridge network to temporarily switch to delivery services, Hubbub said.
Kanahaya Alam, community fridge manager at Hubbub, flagged recent research from the charity that revealed that one in five people in the UK have been concerned about being able to access food during the coronavirus lockdown. "Yet millions of pounds worth of food is wasted every year in the UK," she said. "Community fridges already play an important part in tackling this, and our ambition is that Food Connect will help retailers distribute surplus food straight to those who need it, whilst supporting the need for cleaner air."
In Milton Keynes - the location of one of the country's first community fridges - food packs have been delivered since the beginning of lockdown, thanks to partnership between food charity FareShare and local NGOs and councils.
Richard Kennell, chief executive of the charity that operates FareShare in the South Midlands, said the pilot electric delivery project had come at a "critical time".
"Demand for FareShare's service has skyrocketed since the coronavirus outbreak, and we're now working tirelessly to significantly increase the amount of food we deliver each week, ensuring surplus food gets to those who need it most," he said. "Our partnership with Hubbub, the Community Fridge Network and Milton Keynes Council therefore comes at a critical time as we work together through the crisis to fight hunger and food waste whilst minimising our environmental impact."
Councillor Jenny Marklew said that the project would help the local authority reach its ambition of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. "E-cargo bikes are such a fantastic way to help us achieve this, meaning the council staff, social enterprises and local businesses are all able to play a part in reducing our impact on the environment," he said.
Tim Anderson, head of transport at Energy Saving Trust, said the now-closed eCargo Bike Fund had attracted a "significant number of applications". In total, 18 local authorities have successfully secured funding, he confirmed, helping them to purchase 273 electric cargo bikes and nine ecargo bike trailers.
"E-cargo bikes are an attractive low carbon transport solution which offer important benefits, most impressively fuel cost savings and contributing to improved local air quality," Anderson said. "Last mile delivery is an important area for consideration in our journey to reduce transport emissions to net zero by 2050."
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