Students from the University of Exeter are distributing unsold food to the city’s homeless community.

Student volunteers help Exeter’s homeless by distributing excess campus food

Students from the University of Exeter are joining forces with a local charity by distributing unsold food to the city’s homeless community.

The Food Action Project focuses on reducing the amount of edible food within the sell-by-date that goes unsold in shops, cafés and restaurants across the University, whilst also helping those who struggle daily for food within the city.

Organiser Alec James, VP Welfare and Diversity for the Student’s Guild and former Geography student, hopes that food outlets across Exeter will eventually join the project.

James, 23, vowed to set up the University venture in his election manifesto last year and will continue the project when he leaves office. He said: “It’s been fantastic working in collaboration with so many people: University staff, the Guild, outlets on campus and external charities. It’s a really nice example of different groups coming together to help find a solution to two big issues in our local community.”

Wednesday 22 February saw the launch of the project, coinciding with the national Student Volunteering Week. It has already been warmly welcomed by students, staff and local charities alike.

A team of the Guild’s Exeter Student Volunteers, already 50-strong, transports food from campus to the charity Exeter Food Action, homeless shelter Gabriel House or Safesleep or directly to homeless shelters every Wednesday and Friday.

The food will initially consist of mainly pre-packaged sandwiches and fruit but Alec hopes the project will continue to grow, even after he leaves office:“I’ve set up the basics for this project, but I really hope it expands in the future. It’s in the hands of the two Exeter Student Volunteer project leads now and I know they have ambitions to work with campus services to see if food can be sourced from halls of residence.

“We also think local outlets in town might be interested in joining us. Once we get this established on campus we really hope this venture can expand into something a lot bigger.”

Isabel Bradbury and Warren Bingham-Roberts are the Guild project leads and are now responsible for managing the volunteers and expanding the scope of the project.

Isabel, a Geography student, said: “We are so excited to launch the Food Action Project. We hope to improve the sustainability of our campus, alleviate pressure on the environment and most importantly help those in need around Exeter."

Warren, a Psychology Student, added: “It’s truly inspiring how much interest we’ve received from people wanting to help with the project - thank you to everyone who has been involved in setting it up. We’re excited to get started and hope to expand even further over the next year!”

In the first instance, food will be collected from the following outlets on campus: The Guild Shop, Comida, Pret a Manger, Roundhouse, La Touche, Terrace Restaurant, X-keys, and the Market Place.

It will then be passed on to Exeter Food Action, a local charitable company which works to alleviate food poverty and reduce environmental damage by preventing good food going to waste. Donated foods are redistributed to community organisations and local homeless charities.

Julie Tong, Head of Catering, said: “We are delighted to be supporting the student-led Food Action Project. Our aim is always to keep our food wastage to an absolute minimum, however inevitably we will have some products leftover at the end of the day — to be able to pass them on to those who need them is fantastic. We gained a two-star accreditation from the Sustainable Restaurant Association in 2016 and the Food Action Project is another step towards offering a sustainable dining experience, from food sourcing to the management of our food waste”

For more information on the Food Action project and to find out how to get involved visit the website.

Date: 7 March 2017

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