One of the main challenges reported by community food projects is a reliable food supply of quality food.

Several projects are reliant on surplus food, meaning a lack of choice and deliveries which can be unsuitable for the project. As more community food projects have been set up, there is also more demand for surplus food, meaning projects cannot always get sufficient quantities and many are on waiting lists to receive food.

Several community food projects also buy additional food from a variety of suppliers, which can put financial pressure on the project, particularly if they are paying full retail prices, while demand is increasing.

Some projects may grow some of their own food, or source this from local farmers and growers.

Across the country, several community food projects, networks and alliances are working together to pilot models to improve reliability and quality, reduce costs and reduce reliance on surplus food, to ease challenges around food supply. While there is no magic solution to what remains a complex challenge, we share some resources to help you, as well as some information on the approaches being taken by others to explore alternative food sources and bolster food supply.

You can also see our case studies, which include examples of how projects are sourcing food in various ways.

This page includes information on:

  • Surplus Food Sources
  • Wholesale and Collective Buying
  • Sourcing directly from producers
  • Gleaning

Surplus food sources

There are several organisations across the UK that redistribute surplus food to community food projects, preventing the food from going to waste and allowing it to be used by the community. It is important to note that surplus food is not a solution to food insecurity, as it does not tackle to root causes of why people are experiencing poverty and barriers to accessing food. Additionally, the fact that so much surplus food exists in the food system is a huge issue in itself, affecting the environment and people’s livelihoods throughout the food chain. However, many community food projects rely on surplus food as their main source of food supply, and are greatly supported by the organisations which help to redistribute surplus food, many of which also campaign around wider food system and social issues.

Below is a summary of the main suppliers operating in the UK:

The Felix Project

Operational areas: London (all boroughs)

Membership: The Felix Project deliver regularly to food hubs and individual food projects. Projects do not have to pay for the food and there are no membership fees. Projects can register here, but there are is likely to be a waiting list before you start receiving food. The Felix Project prioritise supporting projects which are moving ‘beyond the food bank’ i.e. exploring trading models and/or projects linked with wraparound support.

Offer: Fresh, frozen and ambient food is available and delivered to project. The Felix Project also produce their own freshly cooked meals which are delivered to projects in London.

FareShare UK

Operational areas: 34 regional centres across the UK. This map shows where the centres are based. These centres support a network of over 8,500 projects.

Membership: FareShare deliver regularly to food hubs and individual food projects. Projects have to pay membership fees, apart from in London where the regional centre is operated by The Felix Project. Projects can register here, but there is likely to be a waiting list before you start receiving food.

Offer: Fresh, frozen and ambient food is available.

FareShare Go

Operational areas: across the UK.

Membership: FareShare Go joins up projects directly with local supermarkets, retailers and restaurants and pick up food themselves. Key partners are Tesco, ASDA and Waitrose & Partners, wholesaler Booker, and restaurants KFC and Nando’s. There is no membership fee. Projects can register here, but there is likely to be a waiting list before you start receiving food.

Offer: Fresh, frozen and ambient food is available.

City Harvest

Operational areas: London.

Membership: City Harvest deliver regularly to community food projects. Projects do not have to pay for the food and there are no membership fees. Projects can register here, but there may be a waiting list before you start receiving food.

Offer: Predominantly fresh food is available.

UK Harvest

Operational areas: In and around Hampshire, West Sussex and Arun Districts. This includes Winchester, Salisbury, Portsmouth, Chichester, Bognor Regis, Brighton, Littlehampton and Worthing.

Membership: UK Harvest deliver regularly to community food projects. Projects do not have to pay for the food and there are no membership fees. If you are interested, contact, and see their website for more information.

Offer: Predominantly fresh food is available.


Operational areas: Across the UK and abroad.

Membership: Projects do not have to pay membership fees or commit to a regular order but are able to order food as and when needed. Projects pay per pallet to cover operating and delivery costs. Projects can register here.

Offer: Hischurch deliver pallets of chilled, frozen and ambient food and non-food items.


Operational areas: across the UK.

Membership: Neighbourly join projects up directly with local supermarkets and pick up food themselves. Key partners are Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencers and Lidl. There is no membership fee. Projects can register here.

Offer: Fresh, frozen and ambient food is available.

Plan Zheroes

Operational areas:  London.

Membership: Plan Zheroes join projects up directly with local food businesses and pick up food themselves. There is no membership fee. Projects can register here.

Offer: Fresh, frozen and ambient food, often food in bulk.

There are other organisations which purchase ambient food and supply this to charitable food aid providers, which can also be explored as a source of food, such as Bankuet and Food Bank Aid.

Wholesale and collective buying

Feeding Britain

Feeding Britain support a network of over 350 affordable food clubs, pantries and social supermarkets. Membership is free and enables access to a wide range of resources, including links with surplus food providers, links with wholesale provider Ankose who offer a wide range of products at wholesale price, and expertise around projects coming together to use their collective buying power to save money. To find out more and access these resources email

Sustainable Food Places

Sustainable Food Places (SFP) is a network that brings together pioneering food partnerships from across the UK that are driving innovation and best practice on all aspects of healthy and sustainable food. Sustainable Food Places is a partnership programme led by the Soil Association, Food Matters and Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming.

Several food partnerships within the SFP networks have trialled collective buying methods, with some setting up food hubs which can be accessed by the various community food projects in their networks.

SFP held a webinar entitled ‘From Co-Ops to Bulk Purchasing: Models for Emergency Food Provision’, with case studies of food partnerships that have trialled collective purchasing methods. This included a talk from Plymouth Food Cooperative Connections, who were awarded awarded funding through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

You can read the summary, watch the webinar recording, and access slides here.

Sourcing directly from producers

Some community food projects and networks have made direct connections with local producers, which may be able to offer regular supplies at wholesale prices. Other use a ‘pay-it-forward’ or similar model to access food from local producers.

The Real Farming Trust

The Real Farming Trust connects and supports people who are transforming the food system from the grassroots up. They provide spaces for new ideas and partnerships to flourish, fund small-scale community food and farming projects, and build the evidence base for agroecology by measuring social impact.

Their website contains several useful resources including:

  • A webinar and written guide to dehydrating, juicing and bottling surplus food
  • A briefing on nutrition in community food projects
  • A summary of the issues in the surplus food sector
  • A practical toolkit and webinar for making ready meals in community food projects
  • A webinar for working with migrants and people seeking asylum in community food projects
  • An outline of models for linking farms to community food projects, especially community supported agriculture, including models for paying for the food
  • A webinar about Gleaning (see below for more details)

Case Study: Linking Up Food Suppliers with Hubs

The Real Farming Trust supports Linking Up Suppliers and Hubs (LUSH) as a model which brings together ecological and social value-based food suppliers with community food projects to create a more resilient food system. It is a method for ‘Bridging the Gap’ and supplying food which has grown using planet-friendly methods to people on lower-incomes who may not be able to afford it. LUSH supplies community food projects and food hubs with good quality, local food as well as increasing sales for producers and ensuring they receive a fair price for their produce. LUSH is an arrangement made between two individual projects at the local level, not a national large-scale strategy.

How does it work?

  1. The retailer connects with a local community food project or food hub. There is a dialogue, understanding and practicalities are agreed.
  2. The retailer asks existing customers to ‘buy another one for someone that needs it’, and customers give extra money to the producer, meaning the producer receives the full price for their produce.
  3. The retailer gives the value of donated food to the community food project, which uses the food to address food insecurity and bring social benefits.

The partnership benefits the retailer, which could be a farmer or producer, as they are able to sell more of their products at full price, and it benefits the food projects as they receive the food for free and use it for social benefit. A dialogue is set up between the partners, who may not have previously been connected, and continued throughout the process. This dialogue also helps to identify which food items are useful – one project identified that many of their beneficiaries had good cooking skills and were happy to receive offal. The farmer didn’t have previously have a good market for offal and this enabled them to sell more offal and reduce waste.

LUSH can be used for different kinds of produce, including fruit and vegetables, dairy products, meat and fish, eggs, and baked goods. These products are often in high demand for community food projects which may have an otherwise limited supply of fresh produce and a reliance on surplus food, which can be unreliable or inappropriate. Through LUSH they can set preferences for what arrives and when, at regular intervals, to complement their surplus deliveries so that the food arrives as they need it.

It is important to note that LUSH does not tackle the root causes of poverty: people should have enough money to buy good quality food that is good for them and the planet and should not be reliant on donations, and farmers should operate in a fair market and receive fair prices for the food they produce. However, unlike other models such as taking farm surplus, or buying from producers at a reduced price, LUSH means the farmer or producer receives the full price for their produce. This is key as we know that farmers are often left with far less than 1p of the profit made on the food they produce, with many farmers struggling to make ends meet.

LUSH resources including the starter pack to help you set up and a case study video about LUSH in Stroud can be accessed here.

For more information contact: Jade Bashford at .

The Real Farming Trust has funding from the Lottery Community Fund to help share the LUSH model.



Gleaning is an activity whereby volunteers link up with local farmers with surplus crops which are not otherwise going to be harvested, and ‘glean’ or harvest those crops, making this food available and preventing it from being wasted.

The Gleaning Network, run by Feedback, is a network of groups, organisations, farmers, charities and volunteers who are working together to reduce farm-level food waste. The Gleaning Network exists to bring together and empower communities, enabling them to salvage surplus food left on farms, which can then be redistributed within the local area.

Their toolkit can be accessed here.

The Real Farming Trust held a webinar on ‘Gleaning Networks for Food Support’, which can be accessed here.


Open Food Network

The Open Food Network offers an open-source platform for local producers to sell their products directly to retailers and consumers, at a price that works for them. Community food enterprises can use this platform to buy or sell food.


Real Bread bakeries

Is there a small, independent bakery in your area that you could approach to suggest partnering on a Real Bread For All scheme? Rather than them giving away surplus loaves, the Real Bread Campaign’s guide includes suggestions for securing funding/income to enable people to buy additive-free bread at a subsidised price. An example is JustBread in Bristol, run by Hart’s Bakery, Batches Bakery and Heart of BS13.

Good Food Enterprise: Working to provide food that is good for people and the planet, and support local production playing a part in community beyond trading.


Definitions of key terms used in this toolkit.

Open glossary

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