Reducing food poverty and social isolation with FoodCycle

Since FoodCycle started cooking, back in May 2009, they’ve served over 125,000 meals – cooked by volunteers who rescue good food and cook nutritious meals for their guests. FoodCycle combine surplus food, volunteers and spare kitchen spaces to create nutritious three-course meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation.

Growing from the London-based ‘hub’ to eight around the UK in its first three years, FoodCycle recognised they needed external assistance to further scale nationally.

FoodCycle approached Spring Impact to help develop a strategic plan to scale their social impact in a sustainable way. FoodCycle has now scaled to over 29 new locations and is on track to fulfilling ambitious growth plans to reach thousands more lives.


To expand volunteer-powered community projects from 8 to 200+ sites across the UK, working to reduce food poverty and social isolation by serving tasty, nutritious meals to vulnerable people.

FoodCycle is a UK charity that combines volunteers, surplus food and spare kitchen spaces to create tasty, nutritious meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation.

In its first three years (2009 – 2011), FoodCycle grew rapidly, from its London-based pilot to 8 “hubs” around the UK. Collectively the hubs:

  • Served over 16,000 meals using reclaimed food
  • Recovered over 11,000 kilograms of food
  • Catalysed over 13,000 volunteer hours
  • Organised over 60 community-building events

As of 2012 however the large amount of time the central staff expended on problem solving at headquarters and the over-reliance on FoodCycle to fundraise centrally meant the model was not capable of scaling nationally.

Acknowledging they did not have the internal expertise nor finance resource, in 2013 FoodCycle secured a grant from Nesta to work with Spring Impact.

FoodCycle came to the Spring Impact with an ambitious scale target – moving from 8 to 200+ delivery sites. Spring Impact’s task was to help FoodCycle design a detailed roadmap for rapid scale, systemise operations and then pilot the new system.


Spring Impact designed and helped to implement a social franchise model that was successfully piloted in three locations and continues to inform FoodCycle’s expansion plan.

Applying the Spring Impact Five Stages of Social Replication, the first stage of developing the plan to scale FoodCycle’s impact involved conducting an internal review of their model and subsequently identifying a franchise model as the most suitable social replication method.

After designing the franchise model, Spring Impact supported FoodCycle’s journey in getting itself franchise-ready, by assisting the team codify key processes, procedures and policies. Spring Impact worked with FoodCycle to identify which operations were key success drivers, which policies and procedures crucially needed to be codified for franchisees, and ensured quality assurance measures were put in place between FoodCycle and franchisees.

Spring Impact then helped FoodCycle pilot the new franchise model in three new locations and introduced a formal feedback loop and multiple checkpoints to ensure key lessons, successes and failures, were being captured and learned from.


FoodCycle has now scaled to over 29 new locations and is on track to fulfilling ambitious growth plans to reach thousands more through the new social franchise model.

As a result of a successful piloting stage FoodCycle has now scaled up to over 29 locations and is seeking to expand to a minimum of a further 12 hubs across London over the next three years to reach thousands of new beneficiaries.

Whilst undergoing the expansion process FoodCycle is maintain consistent performance on its social impact targets and beneficiary reach. From 2014 to 2015 FoodCycle experienced a year on year increase in food waste redirection (7%), meals served (26%) and volunteer hours contributed (13%).

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