Unicycle Food


Wealth directly relates to diet in the UK; the poorer people are, the worse their diet, and the more diet-related diseases they suffer from. This is food poverty, and this is not how it has to be.  Poor diet is a risk factor for the UK’s major killers of cancer, coronary heart disease (CHD) and diabetes. Yet it is only in the past few years that the immense contribution it makes to poor health has been quantified: poor diet is related to 30% of life years lost in early death and disability.

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Why tackle food waste ?

The UK creates almost 14 million tonnes of ‘food waste’ per annum. Split in to three key ‘groups’, food waste can be retail, household or commercial with some items never even seeing the shelves they were packaged for. For example, in the first six months of 2013, Tesco generated around 28,500 tonnes of food waste.  Of that total, 21% was made up of fruit and vegetables and 41% of bakery items.

An estimated 20 to 40% of UK fruit and vegetables are rejected even before they reach the shops, mostly because they do not match the supermarkets' excessively strict cosmetic standards. With a rising population, food security is a fundamental issue which needs addressing. In addition to this, in 2013, 52,910 people were classified as homeless. Utilising waste food not only reduces waste but provides a secure supply of food to the homeless, presenting an opportunity to improve diets whilst enabling homeless charities to put their money to better use.

The socio- economic impact of food poverty was highlighted in the 2014 Feeding Britain Report that focused on the links between poor diets, low household incomes and nutrition. Whilst there are national options for this (FareShare and the work of the Trussell Trust that supports foodbanks), one of the key recommendations of this report was to establish and support local solutions.

UNICYCLE-Food Waste aim to support Plymouth’s emerging focus on ‘sustainable food’ as the city seeks to become a Sustainable Food City, and to assist in alleviating what has already been identified as an emerging problem for some of the city’s most vulnerable communities. Like many other UK cities, Plymouth has seen an unprecedented rise in the use of foodbanks since 2012 and, despite the development of significant food waste projects (DCFA), further assistance is always welcomed.

Who are we ?

UNICYCLE is a Plymouth University student-led group dedicated to redistributing food resources that would otherwise go to waste. ‘UNICYCLE – Food Waste’ is an environmental and charitable project promoting the utilisation of waste food in a way that benefits the wider community. Currently working with Plymouth University Student Union, the George House homeless hostel, the Devon and Cornwall Food Association (DCFA) and the Plymouth Food Partnership, this project has great potential for development and is aiming to cover food waste from all university outlets by 2016.

How our project works.

UNICYCLE is a dedicated, student led ‘Food Waste’ group that encourages local volunteering. It builds on the enthusiasm of a team of student volunteers who, on average, spend a maximum of 1 hour a day per week collecting and delivering food to homeless shelters in the local area.

The food supplies we redistribute are donated by local businesses who, in general, are looking to reduce their waste and disposal costs for disposal, improving sustainability and providing benefits to the community.  

The scheme currently receives food donations from the University of Plymouth’s Students Union (UPSU) shop, and hopes to expand this opportunity across the university campus.

Food supplies are collected at a pre-arranged time before shop closure and delivered to the recipient organisation, the 24h George House Homeless Hostel, whilst the food is still in date.

Building on identified opportunities, UNICYCLE is now working with George House to consider how soups might be created from these supplies in support of additional citywide projects.

  • UNICYCLE’s project  aims to be flexible and benefit and emerging list of partner organisations by :
  • Providing a volunteering opportunity which enhances CV’s.
  • Providing the homeless with a free and reliable source of food.
  • Utilising edible food that would otherwise be going to waste.
  • Providing shops with a means of food disposal which is low cost and sustainable, in turn   increasing community relations whilst creating great advertising opportunities.
  • Providing Plymouth University with an additional means to maintain its position as a top green university.


UNICYCLE – Food Waste offers a unique opportunity for students to engage in a new, regular and effective volunteering scheme which takes up only 1 hour a week.  The volunteers themselves will gain invaluable volunteering experience which combats a range of community and social issues, ranging from food insecurity and nutrition to sustainable business management and charitable opportunities and the socio-economic impacts of homelessness and food poverty. 

Volunteers managing UNICYCLE – Food Waste will develop the essential leadership and project management skills required to effectively co-ordinate operations between volunteers and the donating organisations. Undertaking meetings with partner organisations and the liaison required to introduce new businesses for further expansion will also be crucial.

Managers will also develop important marketing, advertising and press liaison skills whilst promoting and developing the project and will boost their experience of sustainability certification and consultation with SU and University staff and external partner teams.

In an aim to contribute towards ‘Feeding Britain’, the recent all Party Parliamentary Inquiry on Hunger and Food Poverty, volunteers will be required to record and log the amount of food collected (weight and amount) which will contribute towards Plymouth-based evidence. 

Further information can be found on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/unicycle.food together with relevant news articles and progress reports.