Hilton hotels across the UK are partnering with Open Kitchens to help divert enough surplus food to create more than 50,000 meals a month.
One in eight people in the UK has difficulty accessing regular food1 – a figure which continues to grow as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic – whilst 250,000 tonnes of surplus edible food is thrown away annually.2 As demand from restaurants and caterers has dwindled during the pandemic, the amount of surplus food available has increased exponentially, leading to a major uptick in donations to food banks and charities such as FareShare, The Felix Project and City Harvest. Much of the produce however – originally destined for professional kitchens – comes in bulk, or requires preparation by a chef, before it can be distributed further. Open Kitchens aims to solve both challenges by using this surplus food, prepared in currently unused kitchen space in restaurants, to distribute free meals to those who need it most.
To begin with, Open Kitchens had been forced to turn down huge quantities of food due to lack of storage capacity. In response, Hilton has stepped in to turn high-capacity hotel kitchens, which usually cater for large-scale conferences and events, into regional Kitchen Hubs which will accept deliveries of up to 10 tonnes of surplus food per week, enabling the initiative to double its output and provide 50,000 more free meals a month to those in need, using produce which would previously have had to be thrown away.
The new Kitchen Hubs – situated at Hilton Birmingham Metropole, Hilton London Metropole, Hilton East Midlands Airport, Hilton Nottingham and Hampton by Hilton Sheffield, will store food before it is delivered to local restaurants for preparation and distribution. The new model will empower Open Kitchens to feed an additional 50,000 people each month, taking its services into communities close to these cities – where previously a lack of nearby storage space for bulk deliveries had prevented it from operating at scale.
In addition to the Kitchen Hubs, Hilton London Metropole – Hilton’s largest hotel in the UK – will serve as a community kitchen. The hotel’s chefs will prepare 1,000 meals a week to be distributed via The Felix Project to people in need including the homeless, children who rely on free school meals, the elderly and those living in isolation, with ambitions for more community kitchens in Hilton hotels to be added in the coming weeks.
Russell Impiazzi, Executive Head Chef, Hilton London Metropole said: “We’ve always been passionate about using our culinary skills to support our local community and tackle food waste, so when we get the opportunity to do both – and for such an important cause – it’s something the whole team is genuinely excited about. Hospitality has an incredible ability to bring people together and above all else, to do the right thing and put people first. That’s what we will continue to try and do. In committing to provide over 12,000 meals in the coming weeks, we have the fun challenge of working with the amazing suppliers, producers, charities and food banks trying hard to find homes for the vast amounts of surplus that would otherwise go to waste, and using it to create something delicious for those who desperately need it.”
Adam Roberts, CEO of Open Kitchens said: “Open Kitchens was borne from a desperate need to reach the individuals who have been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis. In just seven weeks, we’ve opened up 32 restaurant kitchens to provide more than 100,000 meals to those in need – relying on public donations and support from businesses. The magnitude of this challenge is enormous. With Hilton’s Kitchen Hubs we’ll be able to ramp up our operation on a scale like no other – feeding more people in more corners of the country and diverting more food from being wasted.”
Stephen Cassidy, Managing Director, UK & Ireland, Hilton said: “It’s been heartening to see the hospitality industry come together to support local communities during this pandemic – offering food, kitchen space and manpower to ensure key workers and vulnerable individuals don’t go hungry. We’ve been incredibly impressed by Open Kitchens’ ability to quickly react to this challenging situation with an innovative solution, and we look forward to being on this fast-paced journey with them through the course of the pandemic and beyond.”
Mark Curtin, CEO of The Felix Project, says: “The Felix Project have been working on the forefront of the coronavirus crisis to get food out to people in need across London. The need is so great that we have had to quadruple our output. Open Kitchens – and this new partnership with Hilton – are the crucial link to convert existing food supply into the cooked meals which so many people desperately need. We’re incredibly grateful to Open Kitchens and to Hilton for helping create a viable solution so we can continue to support communities in need.”
1 According to Open Kitchens – based on the FAO UN Voices of the Hungry Report 2016, using the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) to measure hunger
2 According to Wrap Surplus food redistribution in the UK; 2015 to 2017