‘this is a theme which has reached its moment… there is definitely a need for this’

A quote from Ruth O’Keeffe District and County Councillor.

Thanks to many volunteer tweeters an account has been published of the inaugural Knowledge Cafe: making use of surplus food held at Le Magasin Lewes on Monday 24th September 2012. A fuller account of the meeting is available as a Storify record.

It was a chance to learn how London is using surplus food and feeding those who are struggling; to discuss how the PlanZheroes project has worked in London and to see if the conditions are right for it to work in Lewes and beyond.

Here are some of the highlights:


Plan Zheroes (PZ) are the ‘community noticeboard’ of donors and recipients of surplus food. They are not for profit and a core priniciple is that they do not charge either for the acquisition or provision of surplus food.

  • In a way they are brokers providing a service that brings parties at all levels of the food supply chain into contact with each other through their interactive map.
  • There is a need in and around Lewes: an increasing number of people are struggling and this will be exacerbated by changes in benefits from April 2013. Yet surplus food exists and while great initiatives are already under way many people are unaware of what others are doing and can offer (where the Plan Zheroes map comes in).
  • ‘There is no pressure, we are just trying to make good connections work’.
  • One of PZ’s main ‘USP’s’ is its ability to come up with imaginative solutions e.g. getting chefs to treat surplus prepared food as potential ingredients for use in other dishes e.g. salmon into Quiche or fish pie and to teach people how to cook with ‘leftovers’.
  • Despite established supply and delivery chains typical business models do not cover surplus prepared food of the type that comes from catering, restuarants, pubs, cafes and hotels. It needs to be consumed within a 12 hour period.
  • Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes: to help spot ‘Zheroes’:establishments willing to donate food/ organisations who wish to receive food and engage those people with the map; to help with food distribution -getting it from the donor to the recipient.
  • Don’t criticise and don’t push.  ‘People take time, they work at different speeds and have different comfort levels.
  • The potential launch of a funded mobile app will improve real time access so both sides of the food chain will be able to post information that is acted on much quicker.
  • A number of good ideas for sourcing and delivering surplus food emerged.  Most of the people who attended were excited by the prospect of using the Plan Zheroes map to help connect donors with recipients: ‘let’s get food from A to B. The food is there, the Demand is there. Let’s help distribute!’

Background to the meeting:

This came about following a chance meeting between a resident of Lewes (Paul J Corney) with Maria Ana Neves one of the co-founders and inspirations behind Plan Zheroes a citizen led movement to help use surplus food in London.
After a 3 month awareness campaign (use of social media, direct and targeted mailings to schools, centres of worship, publicans, gp groups, charities, volunteer groups, restaurants and hotels), it was decided to hold an open evening (a Knowledge Cafe) to look at what Plan Zheroes had acheived to date in London; whether a need existed in and around Lewes and finally could a Plan Zheroes style operation work here.

It is important to note the tacit and often explicit support of Lewes District Council Officials, Councillors and Transition Town Lewes (a number of whom were at the meeting).

Plan Zheroes:
Maria Ana Neves
Knowledge et al team:
Paul J Corney (Catalyst); Ana Aguilar-Corney (Registration & Curator); Joe Offer (Curator)
Le Magasin hosts:
Frankie; Maddie; Joe; Cameron; Xavi
Cross section of volunteer groups, street evangelists, gp surgery heads, councillors, council officials, leaders of networks and business people. NB Names have been omitted to preserve anonymity.



from Oxford Street to Tottenham Court Road in a rucksack

I am in London ahead of the Plan Zheroes (re) launch at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and wanted to share a story that illustrates how effective it can be:A few weeks ago one of the leading department stores in Oxford Street signed the Plan Zheroes agreement to provide a charity in Tottenham Court Road with surplus food. The logistical challenge: how to get it there, quickly and at minimal cost.

PlanZheroes proposed a solution: use members of outdoor gyms who’d made themselves available to ‘run the food’ the length of Oxford Street to its destination in rucksacks on their backs.

With more than a week to go Lewes’ inaugural Knowledge Cafe on making use of surplus food is booking up fast. Thus far we have a mixture of: councillors; publicans; volunteer groups; charities; centres of worship; general practitioners; and opinion formers. The geographical spread is equally impressive: Lewes in the centre; Uckfield and Wealden in the North; Seaford and Newhaven in the South; Eastbourne in the East; and Hove in the West.

It’s promising to be an interesting evening. Le Magasin are going to be serving up some wonderful crostini, crudites and Mediterranean meats washed down with the odd carafe or two to stimluate conversation.

Knowledge Cafe venue

If you haven’t signed up yet and want to here’s the link: Knowledge Cafe: Making Use of Surplus Food

I was particulary delighted to take a very supportive call from Councillor Tony Nicholson, Leader of Lewes District Council; to have Ruth O’Keeffe and Ian Eiloart involved; and to have opened a very constructive dialogue with LDC officials all of whom have been keen to help.

At last night’s RSA event the Plan Zheroes exhibit was inundated with expressions of support and interest from the 200 or so invited guests.

Maria Ana Neves answering questions from some of the many visitors to the Plan Zheroes exhibit at RSA Innovate evening

On the same subject.This quote hit me in an article I was reading last week on food waste in easyJet’s in flight magazine.

we have one garbage bin and 100 seats

What struck me is how through careful husbandry restaurateurs have been able to dramatically cut the amount they throw away; it also confirmed that food establishments do produce surplus food.

What a waste

See you on the 24th.