E-cargo bikes being used to redistribute surplus food during lockdown

A Milton Keynes initiative is using e-cargo bikes to redistribute surplus food during lockdown. Food Connect, which was founded by London-based charity Hubbub in June 2020, will be collecting and redistributing food until February when the scheme will be reviewed ahead of possible expansion to more UK locations.

Food Connect revolves around Hubbub's Community Fridge Network – spaces where anyone who lives nearby can exchange surplus food, including businesses.

There are currently around 100 Community Fridges in operation, from which 975 tonnes of surplus food (equivalent to 1.9 million meals) are distributed each year, benefitting 77,500 people.

The network relies on volunteers to collect the food from retailers but collection times and the volumes on offer can sometimes present a challenge. Food Connect is therefore being trialled to bridge the ‘final mile’ between food retailers and Community Fridges.

In Milton Keynes, Bosch eBike Systems has provided an Urban Arrow Cargo XL and a Tern GSD with a large trailer for the trial.

During the national lockdown in the summer of 2020, Food Connect delivered more than 2,000 food parcels to vulnerable households and those who were self-isolating, diverting more than 21 tonnes of food from waste and saving over 1,700 food miles in just 16 weeks.

More recently, it operated throughout the Christmas period with additional collections up until Christmas Eve to provide surplus food to organisations such as Keeping Kids off the Streets and Together at Christmas – both of which served free hot food in Milton Keynes on Christmas Day.

Helen Innes, Project Coordinator at Food Connect said “The Food Connect service makes a huge difference locally.

“The amazing thing is that everyone benefits from sharing surplus food. The biggest challenge for Food Connect is the logistics behind collecting the unwanted food and redistributing it quickly via our network of community fridges, to those who need it and those that simply hate to see it go to waste. This is where the eCargo bikes come in – they’re brilliant.”

Pearl, a Food Connect parcel recipient said: “By having the weekly deliveries it really did help fill out the cupboard and was a nice surprise to see what was in our boxes. It was something to look forward to – especially if there were treats.

“It was also so nice to have such wonderful people deliver the food parcels. Every single one of them has been so friendly and has given up time to have a chat.”

Ritchie Dixon, Food Connect’s Urban Arrow Cargo XL rider said: “I love riding the bikes. Even with a full load they’re just so effortless to ride, and so much fun.

“My Urban Arrow even has the new Nyon display on it so I can navigate my way around the whole of Milton Keynes without getting lost – which is quite impressive given the number of roundabouts we have here. But I also love the data it gives me – it’s a techie’s dream.”