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Dan McAlpine explains City Harvest’s Sustainable Solution to Food Waste

Dan McAlpine, Head of Food at City Harvest, has vast experience working in the food industry with extensive knowledge of the UK food system and the intricate workings of industrial supply chains. Dan leads City Harvest’s food sourcing team to help food companies avoid waste, and ensure a sustainable supply of surplus stock throughout the year that we deliver to our charity recipients across London. He also works closely with food businesses to explore ways in which they can make their supply chain more sustainable.

Food council

(Left to right) Dan McAlpine with City Harvest Food Council members Will Beckett, Sarah Calcutt, Frank Bandura – , food industry leaders with a collective passion to educate decision-makers to stop waste, feed the hungry, and help heal the planet. 

How have attitudes to sustainability and food waste evolved since City Harvest launched in 2014? 

Food waste and sustainability are hot on the agenda, with businesses signing up to the Courtauld Commitment 2030 and trying to attain Sustainable Development Goals. It’s great to see the food industry taking food waste seriously. Consumers are making choices based on a brand’s social impact and sustainability, which is effecting change within the supply chain.

Businesses’ commitments to change is an effective way to turn the ship, however we feel the government should be doing more to outlaw food waste full stop. 

How does City Harvest work with supermarkets and food & drink retailers to reduce their food waste?

We like to offer a holistic partnership to our food partners. City Harvest can work with the food business to review their supply chain from farm to shop, unlocking food surplus and redistributing it, safely and for free, to over 350 frontline charities.

Our service is completely free, and we can take pretty much all food that is ambient, chilled, and frozen. We already work with large retailers, manufacturers, distributors, and primary producers UK wide.  

What are the environmental benefits to reducing food waste? 

If food waste was a country, it would have the third biggest carbon footprint. Each kilogram of food that is sent to landfill generates 3.8kg of greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention all the resources and energy that went into making it in the first place.

What happens to the food once it’s donated to City Harvest? 

City Harvest holds itself to the same technical standards as its food partners. All vans are refrigerated, and staff are trained in safe food handling practices.

We receive the food and then have the ability and capacity to grade, sort, and break down pallets of stock in our large Acton warehouse, with the help fo a community of volunteers. The surplus food is then ready for onward redistribution in our fleet of 18 vans. 

We redistribute an average of 100 tonnes of food each week to our charity partners, providing over 1 million nourishing meals per month.

We redistribute an average of 100 tonnes of food each week to our charity partners, providing over 1 million nourishing meals per month.

People collecting food from a City Harvest van

Are there any particular product types that are donated to City Harvest most often? 

Low cost, short shelf-life items, like fruit and vegetables, make up one-third of what we redistribute. We pride ourselves in reacting to a short shelf-life, reliably and safely.

Food can be donated in the morning and be on people’s plates by the evening if that’s what is needed. We can receive all types of food and drink (except alcohol) in any and all pack sizes, ranging from individual units to catering sized packs.  

Mixed peppers donated to City Harvest

Do you have any advice for retailers or hospitality businesses eager to reduce their food waste?

Give us a call or visit our website, if we can’t help directly, we may know someone who can.

As an alternative resource, WRAP’s website is a good place to start, there are helpful hints and tips as well as details on which organisations, like City Harvest, operate in your area.

City Harvest Food Team: 0207 041 8491 –