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Reducing food waste and helping families get more nursery hours

City Harvest free food has been making an impact with London Early Years Foundation nurseries across London. The participating nurseries use City Harvest surplus food to help support children from disadvantaged backgrounds with additional hours at nursery. These children are ineligible for the extra hours simply because their parents are either unemployed or on low incomes.

LEYF’s ‘Doubling Down’ scheme, working with City Harvest, gives kids the boost they need in life through nutritious food and early years support.

Piloted in November 2022, the scheme was rolled out across five of LEYF’s 40 nurseries. These are Wandsworth Bridge, Stockwell, Colville, Eastbury and Earls Court. This food is enough for over 60,000 healthy meals for children and has saved LEYF nearly £5K over the first 3 months. City Harvest free food means significant savings for participating nurseries.

“One of the unique things about the City Harvest partnership is that we aren’t securing funding from an organisation to pay for the hours for these children. We’re actually using surplus food to pay for children’s hours.”

“At LEYF, we really do believe that every child should be getting access to 30 hours free funding. It should just be a given. No child should be disadvantaged before they start school.”

Good food and access to education and care is essential for healthy early years development. This collaboration allows disadvantaged children not merely to survive and avoid stunted growth or malnutrition, but to really thrive. The partnership is now being expanded to a further five LEYF nurseries. This will produce an additional 500,000 meals over the next 12 months, preventing food from going to waste, and saving the organisation £40,000. This substantial saving will provide an additional five children with a years’ worth of additional hours in nursery.

The variety of City Harvest’s deliveries means that children who are often used to eating similar foods are offered new and exciting ingredients. This exposure to variety helps to develop their interest in healthy and nutritious food. Purple carrots and Asian pears have been a particular highlight. LEYF has also been able to benefit the families it supports across three LEYF nurseries which operate food banks – offering fresh produce to struggling families.

Stockwell Gardens, one of the nurseries in the scheme, is located in Lambeth where the poverty rate among children (43%) is higher than the English average (30%).

“Through free food, we’re able to bridge social inequalities that no one child should suffer in 2023. For City Harvest, it is vital that our food has a positive impact that goes beyond each specific meal.


In this special case of working with LEYF nurseries, redistributing our food for free has manifold benefits for young children and their families. Improving the diets of children at risk of malnutrition and enabling additional permanent nursery places for those unable to access the same level of early years education and care is key. We hope that together we can continue to have a positive impact on the most vulnerable children in our city.”

Sarah Calcutt, City Harvest CEO

Help City Harvest support London's children


1 in 4 kids currently faces food poverty. City Harvest supports food banks, children’s centres and youth projects with free food, but thousands more children are in need of our help.