Food waste volunteers make ‘the world of difference’ during crisis

Free Food in Haverhill volunteers with co-founder Matt Yarwood (centre) and councillors Margaret Marks, Jon London, David Smith and Donna Higgins. Photo: West Suffolk Council.

A voluntary organisation, set up to reduce food waste, has told how it has been helping feed up to 500 households a week, including people impacted by the cost-of-living crisis.

Free Food in Haverhill, which has been supported with a grant of just under £7,500 from West Suffolk Council, welcomed councillors to its base at Charterhouse Industrial Estate to see and hear about the work it does.

One of its founders, Matt Yarwood, said: “We collect food from supermarkets and other shops and restaurants that is still good to eat but would otherwise be thrown away because it is at it ‘Use By’ or past its ‘Best Before’ date.

“We have people come to us because they want to save food from going to waste and we also have people come to us because they are struggling financially.

“We don’t pry or ask people or go into their personal details – we don’t want to put people off from coming. But we do hear about people who are struggling, people asking how they can get help or access more food because they need to feed their family.”

The food waste organisation signposts people to REACH in the town who are in need of help both from the charity’s foodbank as well as its debt support service.

Free Food in Haverhill has come a long way from when Matt and his partner Lauren Buckley set it up three years ago.

“We started off from home but as the donations got larger and more frequent, we quickly ran out of space and time. The owner of the building on the industrial estate offered us its use rent free, just paying utilities and other expenses and it has just snowballed from there. We went from having a couple of volunteers to over 30,” they said.

“Now we have got a family of volunteers, and we are saving three to four tonnes of food a week on average from going to waste by giving it to between 400 to 500 households.”

Among those using the service are Mary and John Wilson.

“We come here twice a week. It’s lovely to think that none of it gets wasted,” said Mary. “There were 11 in our family when I was younger and nothing went to waste. There are people out there that really need it and it is save us a lot of money as well.

“We really appreciate it and these volunteers do it out of the kindness of their hearts.”

Free Food in Haverhill successfully applied for just under £7,500 from West Suffolk Council’s Community Chest last year toward the cost of buying a van to use for collecting food donations.

The annual grant scheme has undergone some changes and will open as the Thriving Communities Fund next week for applications for 2025/26.

Donna Higgins, cabinet member for Families and Communities at West Suffolk Council, visited Free Food in Haverhill with Jon London, chair of the Grant Working Party and Haverhill ward members Margaret Marks and David Smith.

Councillor Higgins said: “Free Food in Haverhill is just one example of the great community initiatives that we have invested in to help support residents across West Suffolk.

“While it was primarily set up to reduce food waste it is also helping residents save money and is helping some who have been severely impacted by the cost-of-living crisis over the past couple of years.

“While I’m hopeful that more now will be done nationally to tackle and lift people and families out of poverty, it is good to hear of the partnership work with REACH, another of the town organisations who we have supported, to help people who are in crisis. This army of volunteers are making the world of difference to their local communities.

“Next week will see us open the new look Thriving Communities Fund for applications with changes designed to make it easier for smaller community groups to apply. All of this is part of our long-term strategic priority Thriving Communities, ensuring residents can access services, support and activities to improve their health and wellbeing.”

You can see more on Free Food in Haverhill at  and join its Facebook group at Free Food in Haverhill | Facebook


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