plan zheroes (making use of surplus food)

I want to try and make a difference however small: to help improve people’s lives.

Many of the global clients I’ve worked with are in the third sector. The skills used to surface issues, improve communication / dialogue and get people engaged around a shared vision are found in the discipline called knowledge management. I will draw on those in the voluntary work I intend to pursue.

The first of these is to see if London’s Plan Zheroes initiative can be applied where I live. PlanZheroes is a clever yet simple idea: identify sources of surplus food and connect those who have it with those who need it.

Pubs; staff canteens; restaurants; clubs; offices who order sandwiches for meetings; and supermarkets. All have surplus food at the end of a day, its the nature of the business, more than 1.6million tonnes of surplus food is sent to landfill every year, which contributes to the increase in greenhouse gases. And yet at the same time there are 4 million people in the UK living below the breadline many of whom live below the radar and do not want to be seen to be in difficulties.

The journey starts (in 2012)

In 2012 I set out to see if this might work in Lewes and the surrounding areas and invited Maria Ana Botelho Neves, one of the PlanZheroes originators, to come and participate in a Knowledge Cafe. Held at Le Magasin Lewes it was an informal couple of hours: a chance to discuss how the plan has worked in London and to see if the conditions are right for it to work here.

A good cross section was needed for it to be a representative sample:

  • On the ‘supply’ side: publicans; canteen managers; restaurateurs and cafe owners; supermarketeers.
  • On the ‘demand’ side: charities; churches; councillors; teachers; plus anyone who has, or know of people who have, an interest in using this surplus food.

cafe 1

The event was well attended and the genesis for the launch of Plan Zheroes in Sussex. 

 If you want a postcard or little secret guide go to PlanZheroes. Here’s a snapshot, click on the picture to enlarge it:

A year on, with food banks proliferating and the challenges facing many families increasing where are ‘we’?

  • The Lewes ‘experiment’ confirmed there is demand but mirrored the experiences elsewhere – ad hoc collection of prepared and cooked foods is not sustainable without technology to support it.
  • Businesses have a cost disposing of surplus food but want the supply chain to be at arms length if at all possible.
  • Surprisingly, it is not businesses who are reluctant to come forward its the charities.
  • The Plan Zheroes Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme is an exciting and attractive option for businesses wanting to put something back into the community.
  • This is a knowledge driven business issue and knowledge management and business intelligence techniques essential if Plan Zheroes is to become an effective surpus food broker.
  • Plan Zheroes initiatives to develop their interactive map further, extend it (via GLA support) to include citizens and make an app are all essential.

June 2013

Here is how Plan Zheroes fits into the Surplus Food Spectrum

UK Food Waste Spectrum June 13

 Phase Two of this ‘project’ for me is to be on hand to help Plan Zheroes as it sets out down its corporate governance path and to bring many of the better knowledge management techniques to bear as it expands its operational reach beyond the capital.

December 2013

Having been accorded Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) status by the Charity Commissioners and been invited to be a founding trustee we are now setting about creating a sustainable infrastructure. Here’s a couple of slides from the Strategy Workshop I helpd to run for industry stakeholders on December 10th.

Activity Slide 2Activity Slide 1











January 2014

The following article appeared in the Portugal News

Portuguese design strategist spearheads UK surplus food project

by Carrie-Marie Bratley, in News · 09-01-2014 14:37:00 · 0 Comments

An accomplished Lisbon-born design strategist has become a main driving force behind a new project currently being implemented in London, which aims to build a bridge between the city’s surplus food and the charities that feed the hungry, reducing food wastage in the process.

Portuguese design strategist spearheads UK surplus food project

Plan Zheroes’ main mission is to identify businesses such as hotels, restaurants and cafés that have surplus food and to make them known to the charities that could use that food to feed the needy.
This is done using an online map which locates the providers and the recipients, building a bridge between the two.
It also aims to promote the plan’s ‘Zheroes’ – or ‘heros of zero food waste’ – which to the project’s mentors are “restaurants, food retailers, catering companies, institutions, who serve, sell, buy, distribute food, and have found ways to give their surplus food to people (as opposed to throwing it away or sending it to incinerators).”
Describing herself as an “entrepreneurial, idea-driven systems thinker as well as a design strategist”, Maria Ana Neves is CEO of Plan Zheroes and one of several creative thinkers spearheading the project, which was founded by inspirational 87-year-old War Hero and Austrian Aristocrat Lotti Henley.
Henley, whose family’s wealth and possessions were pillaged by the communists during the Second World War, is herself no stranger to hunger, having been forced to find food in bins during the six-year conflict.
“That experience shaped my whole life and I have never taken food for granted since. This was the motivation behind my new campaign Plan Zheroes”, she told the London Sustainable Development Commission, which selected her as a London Leader in 2011.
“It appals me to see the amount of food we waste in this city on a daily basis. Plan Zheroes aims to inspire food retailers and catering businesses to stop sending their waste food to landfill and, instead, donate it to charities that support the homeless and those on low incomes”, she explained.
Figures from the London Sustainable Development Commission indicate that approx-imately 6.5million tonnes of food and drink is wasted a year by the UK’s food supply chain, valued at £17 billion.
Within the hospitality sector specifically, in 2009, 1.5million tonnes of waste was sent to landfill with a carbon impact of 4million tonnes of CO2 equivalent; £724 million of this was avoidable food waste.
Reports in the British press exposing the UK’s food wastage only served as further ammunition to fuel the fire in Plan Zheroes’ belly, as did findings from the Greater London Authority, which proved hunger exists in the British capital.
“There are entire families that don’t have access to food”, explains Maria Ana Neves, who has lived and worked in the UK for 11 years.
The Plan Zheroes project follows three main lines of action: finding and indentifying potential donors and recipients of surplus food; influencing mentalities, and finding solutions so that the food is not thrown away.
“There are lots of companies that want to donate their surplus food but don’t know how to. People generally want to donate, but I was surprised by the difficulties that the charities face in receiving the food”, Maria Neves told The Portugal News.
Having been granted financing from the Royal Society of Arts and with help from the Mapping for Change organisation, the Plan Zheroes map is now coming up to its second year of service, having been launched in February 2012.
“We are still measuring its impact but we have quite a lot of evidence that there are set-ups benefitting from this project and many ‘zero food waste’ companies are giving their surplus food, so those are fantastic indicators”, Maria Ana stresses.
The project’s next goal, according to 58-year-old management consultant Paul Corney, one of Plan Zheroes’ founding trustees, is to “see if it will work outside London.”
Thanks to it being technology-based he has “great belief that the project could be transferrable globally.”
Corney, who has a home in Lisbon and regularly visits Portugal, adds: “There are people making heat-or-eat decisions just around the corner from places that are throwing food out. In the world we live in, that has got to be wrong. And if there is anything that we can do to help each other then we should be doing it.”

March 2014

PZ VideoThe first short story of Plan Zheroes.





June 2014

Huge event tomorrow when one of London’s main tourist attractions and markets sets about making use of surplus food: Here’s the Press Release:

Saving waste at Borough Market


From this Saturday 21st June a new food waste initiative will be operating out of Borough Market for the first time. Unsold bread, fruit and veg from the Market will be collected by FoodSave, with the help of Plan Zheroes, at the end of Saturday trading and donated to The Dragon Café on Borough High Street.


Borough Market was matched with local charity, The Dragon Café, by the FoodSave project, which offers free support to small and medium food businesses in London to help them address the food waste issue. The development of the scheme has been supported by Plan Zheroes, which finds, supports and inspires food businesses that are willing to donate their surplus food to local charities.


The Dragon Café is part of Mental Fight Club. Every Monday The Dragon Café provides a simple, affordable and healthy menu and a wide range of creative and well-being activities, all of which are free and open to all.  Vulnerable people are particularly welcome and over 200 customers are served each week.  In time there may also be the opportunity to help additional charities that can use Market ingredients picked up during the week after trading.


The Borough Market traders involved to date are the Bread Ahead Bakery, Karaway Bakery, Olivier’s Bakery, Ted’s Veg and Paul Wheeler (Fresh Supplies) Ltd. Together they are joining over 240 small and medium-sized food businesses in London diverting surplus food responsibly.

Keith Davis, Managing Director of Borough Market said:

“Borough Market is committed to inspiring people about food, creativity and sustainability – whether it’s our 100% landfill free policy or collecting coffee grounds from our restaurants to use in our Market Hall garden. Working with FoodSave, we are proud to be doing our bit to reduce as much food waste as possible, before using surplus food to feed people in need.”

Charlotte Jarman, FoodSave project officer at Sustain, said:


“We are very excited to be working with such an iconic London food destination as Borough Market to divert surplus food to good causes such as The Dragon Café.   Let’s hope that this move inspires other markets around the capital to set up similar schemes.”


For more information about Borough Market, its traders and events please visit


For more information contact Ellie Weehuizen, Communications Assistant, on 020 7940 7908, or email

January 2015

The secret ingredient in the fight against food poverty

Plan Zheroes Event – Thursday 29th January 2015 (18:00-21:00), City Hall, London

We would like to invite you to join us to celebrate Plan Zheroes’ three year anniversary and to share in the launch of our secret ingredient in fighting food waste, our new interactive website.

In the UK, 13 million people are living in poverty whilst 650,000 tonnes of perfectly good food is thrown away by food businesses. Plan Zheroes seeks to inspire food businesses to give their surplus food to those who need it so it will never go to waste.

Plan Zheroes’ new website will act as a social network where relationships are built between food businesses and charities, communication is quick and simple, and food reaches those in need, safely and conveniently.

GloriaThe event will be hosted by Plan Zheroes and the Mayor of London’s FoodSave programme, which offers free support to small and medium-sized London food businesses to help them reduce their food waste and put surplus food to good use. Guest speakers will talk about challenges and the innovative opportunities to use surplus food and tackle food poverty in the UK!

We are honoured to have Jack Monroe as guest speaker! The Girl Called Jack campaigner, columnist and author is coming to share a bit of her experience of food poverty and her views about the role of surplus food in our cities.

Guests will have the opportunity to sample delicious dishes from Dinner Exchange East, all of which will be created from surplus food. We already have a great network of Zheroes attending this event and we’d love you to join us and become a Zhero too!

We hope to see you on 29th January.

Best wishes

The Plan Zheroes team

To register your attendance at our event and for more information on event timings and directions to the event please click here. (the password is: secret ingredient)

May 2015

Following the launch at City Hall a lot has been written about the new platform.

In March published:

Retailers slash food wastage with collaborative social network


Over the last couple of years, Plan Zheroes, an organisation focused on eliminating food wastage and helping the hungry, has set up a vital business social network that connects major retailers and the third sector. We can now take much more food before it is thrown out, and supply it to those in urgent need of nourishment.

Having worked for some time with phone-based processes, we decided an internet-based solution was necessary. In the past, when attempting to contact cafes and restaurants that have excess food, charities in need of food, and those in between transporting the items, extensive phone calls were necessary. When juggling literally tons of food, much of which would go off quickly, this was not a good enough solution.

In May the prestigious Forbes Magazine published:

This Homeless Charity Got Smart And Built Own Social Network

They noted:

Its key aim was to enable volunteers to communicate and quickly respond to retailers that have surplus food, and allow organizers to match the food to the needs of the hungry.

Great support from two of the World’s leading online and print heavyweights.

My journey ends (February 2016)

3 years ago I was part of an invited group that met at the business of Andrew Creswell, a relative of Lotti Henley one of the three founders of Plan Zheroes (PZ).

PZ was then an award winning citizens movement that had won acclaim for an innovative yet simple idea: instead of consigning surplus food to waste why not divert it to the growing number of people unable to feed themselves on a regular basis?

By publicizing the issue and identifying the supply and demand parameters PZ was at the forefront of changes taking place in the surplus food movement. And it used an online Map to facilitate the transfer of the surplus food.

The challenge: to give a corporate structure to the embryonic organization so that PZ might scale its operations. So three of us became Founding Trustees of PZ that was established as a Charitable Organisation.

Today, PZ has an established team lead by CEO Laura Hopper, Shane Holland, an experienced industry player as its Chair and three other well qualified Trustees: Carla Morris-Papps (Legal); Phil Hill (Technological); and Andrew Mercieca (Finance).

The past three years have seen PZ develop a strong presence in the surplus food market and, in conjunction with technology partners Keytree, develop an exciting web platform.

My tenure at PZ has been rewarding, stimulating and one I will look back on with immense pride. I am delighted that replacing me as Knowledge Trustee is Chris Wilkie one of PZ’s original founders, a man who understands the on the ground dynamics better than anyone having helped set up many of the local surplus food transfer schemes in London.  

5 thoughts on “plan zheroes (making use of surplus food)

  1. As a Charity who continually give out food parcels to our client families. We need tinned and dried long life food stocks, fresh food would be fantastic but we can’t do the fast turn around required. I am most interested in how this project develops, please keep me posted.

    Thank you.

  2. Pingback: A Breakfast Breakout for law firm knowledge managers. London 9 December | My Blog

  3. Interesting to see how the KM journey took up speed in 2012. Now, almost everyone knows, that a Knowledge Management System should form an essential part of your human resource strategy to drive business growth.

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