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How a Manchester waste food enterprise is feeding vulnerable people during Covid-19

The team at Open Kitchen MCR have stepped up their game to make sure that no one in the city goes hungry during the Coronavirus crisis

Open Kitchen MCR is Manchester’s one and only waste food catering social enterprise. Their mission is to “feed bellies not bins” by intercepting perfectly good food that would otherwise have gone to waste and turning it into delicious meals and events catering.

Back in 2019, they stopped over 45 tonnes of food and household items from going to waste. Not only did this enable them to provide 1440 hot, nutritious meals for people in crisis, but it also meant that they stopped 189.4 tonnes of CO2e from being emitted.

It has been estimated that if food waste was a country, it would be the third-highest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, after the US and China. Throwing away just 3kg of edible food results in greenhouse gases equivalent to a whopping 23kg of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. Open Kitchen cares for the planet at the same time as looking after our communities and working with local charities who support people having a hard time.

With a track record like that, it’s no surprise that this organisation has come to play a major role in supporting the people of Manchester through the lockdown. As the Coronavirus crisis continues to worsen food poverty in the city, the team at Open Kitchen have turned their attention towards feeding those in need during this time.

As some people panic buy and stockpile food, vulnerable people across Manchester are being left with bare cupboards as they struggle with new levels of financial instability. Others cannot leave the house to shop for themselves due to underlying health issues and may not have a support network to do it for them. At the same time, food waste has sharply increased as events are cancelled and businesses are forced to close.

With its team of staff and an ever-growing group of volunteers, Open Kitchen have been rescuing food that would otherwise have gone to waste and making it into healthy microwaveable meals to be distributed across the city. Some of Manchester’s very best chefs have got involved, including those from Hispi Bistro and Hawksmoor Steakhouse. Last week, more than 8,500 meals were made for vulnerable people affected by Coronavirus.

Things went up another gear this week with the news that an enormous 1.1 million frozen airline meals are going to be sent to Open Kitchen. These meals had been marked as waste due to so many flights being grounded but will now be used to feed those in need across Greater Manchester.

Those being supported by the initiative include children who would usually receive free school meals, the street homeless, those living in self-isolation with underlying health conditions, people living below the poverty line, and those temporarily housed in hotel accommodation.

Many companies have banded together to support Open Kitchen’s great work. 18,000 tea bags have been donated by Tetley Tea, Fazenda Bar and Grill is generously donating £400 per week to purchase ingredients that aren’t available via waste food source, Lineage Logistics has helped the team to source a giant freezer for all the airline meals, and housing company Onward Homes has contributed a huge £25k. Other businesses have helped out by providing fridges, delivery vehicles and storage solutions.

So many people have offered to volunteer their time that the Open Kitchen inbox is overflowing with messages from those who want to help pack and deliver meals. Meanwhile, staff at Manchester City Council are working 16-hour days to keep up with demand and ensure that no one goes hungry. This is what the spirit of Manchester is all about and the selflessness of those involved gives us hope in these difficult times.

Thanks to a new “carpark kitchen” trailer that arrived on Friday 24 April, the mighty team will now be able to rustle up more than 500 extra meals every day to make sure that no one in Manchester goes hungry through the Coronavirus lockdown.

Want to get involved and do your bit to support your community? Email [email protected] to register your interest in volunteering.

A big thanks to all of the staff and volunteers at Open Kitchen MCR for your continued great work.


Manchester is a successful city, but there are many people that suffer. The I Love MCR Foundation helps raise vital funds to help improve the lives and prospects of people and communities across Greater Manchester – and we can’t do it without your help. So please donate or fundraise what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a massively rewarding experience. Thank you in advance!

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