The Silverton

Canary Wharf: How The Felix Project’s Santa Stair Climb will help feed Londoners

Challenge will see participants scale 48 floors of One Canada Square to raise cash for the charity

The Felix Project’s first Santa Stair Climb will take place in November 2023

Subscribe to our Wharf Whispers newsletter here

What links green Father Christmas hats, One Canada Square and the distribution of unwanted food to people in need?

The answer is the Santa Stair Climb in Canary Wharf on Sunday, November 19, 2023, and anyone can take part.

As part of its ongoing partnership with Canary Wharf Group, food rescue charity The Felix Project is challenging people to a sponsored walk up a total of 1,031 steps at One Canada Square to reach the tower’s 48th floor. 

With early-bird registration just launched, there are 1,000 places up for grabs at £25 per person, with each individual given a fundraising target of £300. 

Participants receive a personalised green shirt and Santa’s hat to wear during the challenge, with ascents expected to take just over half an hour on average.

“I’ve been training for it, but I’m not sure I’ll be doing it that fast,” said Tanya Mitchell, director of income generation and marketing at The Felix Project.

“But I will complete it, even if it takes me an hour.

“We’ll have staggered start times between 10am and 2.30pm with 100 people in each wave so the stairwell doesn’t get too busy.

“Participants are asked to arrive an hour beforehand and we’ll be running activities in the lobby with a warm-up and an MC overseeing things.

“We’ve also been gifted the use of the 48th floor for the day, which has the most outstanding views over the London skyline from near the top of the third tallest building in the UK.

“They really are exceptional and this is a rare chance to see them.

“We’re hoping to raise as much money as possible, but we’ve set ourselves a target of £300,000 for this first event.

“That would equate to us being able to make and distribute 870,000 meals to Londoners.”

Participants will take on 48 floors of stairs at One Canada Square

For those who don’t know, The Felix Project is the largest charity of its kind in the capital, collecting food that would otherwise be wasted and redistributing it via a network of organisations to those in need.

“Right now it’s estimated that there are 1.2million people in London living with food insecurity or in food poverty – about 20%,” said Tanya.

“Through our own research with YouGov, we looked at people on low incomes earning an average salary of £20,000 and it’s shocking that one in 10 of them has only £2.95 a day to spend on food.

“We work with more than 500 food suppliers, rescuing produce from farm gates, grocers and the hospitality industry to supply really good, nutritious, fresh meals.

“We operate through four depots in London, taking that food in hour-by-hour, day-by-day, six days a week, 12 hours a day to help serve the needs of more than 1,000 charities and organisations in the capital.

“What that £300,000 would mean is that we’ll be able to pick up thousands of tons of food, take it into a depot, sort it and then immediately get it out to hundreds of organisations where it will be given to people in need of a good meal.

“Here in Tower Hamlets – one of the most deprived boroughs in the country – we work with 90 organisations through out Poplar depot.”

The Santa Stair Climb is the flagship event in The Felix Project’s long-term partnership with Canary Wharf Group, which was announced earlier this year.

There are up to 1,000 place up for grabs with successful climbers rewarded with views across London from Canary Wharf’s tallest tower

“We started off by launching The Green Scheme, which means we’ve been able to go out to the retailers and hospitality businesses on the estate to collect food that would otherwise be wasted, from them,” said Tanya.

“An army of volunteers takes it from those businesses to community organisations to distribute five days a week.

“It’s a pivotal relationship for us because while we want to fight hunger in London, we also want to fight food waste and there is complete sympatico between us and Canary Wharf in its commitment to sustainability and its aim to reach net zero by 2030. We’re part of that solution.

“The Santa Stair Climb is a first for Felix and CWG – it’s exciting and exhilarating to be planning an event for 1,000 people and we want it to be a hero event for London.

“Originally, in the 1800s, Santa’s costume was green so we’re re-appropriating that for the event.

“I can’t wait to see 1,000 people all in green climbing those stairs and we really want to thank CWG and everyone involved for giving us this exclusive opportunity.

“The 48th floor isn’t normally open to the public, so this is a very special event. 

“The 1,000 slots will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis and I’d also like to say a big thank you to everyone who is considering entering – it’s going to be a fabulous event, a really magical day.”

Those keen to take part can go to santastairclimb.com for more information or scan the QR code at the bottom of this page.

The Felix Project’s director of income generation and marketing, Tanya Mitchell

For those unable to participate, there are many other ways to get involved with The Felix Project, which last year delivered some 29million meals to those in need and is expecting to distribute 30million this year.

People working in Canary Wharf or those living locally can still volunteer for the Green Scheme.

Roles include drivers, co-drivers and walkers to collect food from businesses on the estate and deliver them to community organisations.

Volunteers are also needed at The Felix Project’s Poplar kitchen and warehouse to prepare ingredients, portion and package meals for onward delivery.

Tanya said: “Last year we had 8,500 people step up to the plate to help us in our efforts to defeat food waste and hunger in London.

“We are an organisation that’s powered by volunteers and we are so grateful to them because demand for our services is rising.

“We anticipate that we will rescue 13,000 tonnes of food this year, but the UK wastes 3million tonnes – only 7%-8% is currently rescued, so we can always do more.

“Just before the pandemic, The Felix Project was distributing around six million meals a year. Now it’s five times as many.

“The other change is that now key workers are accessing the community organisations we supply like food banks and community pantries. It’s a big problem. 

“Ultimately it is our mission not to exist and we are part of conversations with organisations that are working with the government to address the issues of food insecurity and poverty.”

Find out more about the Santa Stair Climb or sign up here

Read more: How Wharf Wellness is set to fill Canary Wharf with calm

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Canary Wharf: How volunteering for the Green Scheme can help fight food poverty

Canary Wharf Group and The Felix Project launch long-term partnership to get food to those in need

Canary Wharf Group and The Felix Project have teamed up to battle food waste and feed those in need

Subscribe to our Wharf Whispers newsletter here

Volunteers needed…

That’s the simple message from Canary Wharf Group (CWG) as it officially launches a long-term partnership with The Felix Project – a charity that rescues surplus food and distributes it to vulnerable people through front line organisations, schools and community initiatives.

Together they have unveiled the Green Scheme – an ambitious project to provide more than 1,000 meals a week through around 10 local organisations, saving some 500kg of food that would otherwise have gone to waste. 

To achieve that, they are  looking to recruit as many as 1,500 people to ensure food is collected from retailers, restaurants and office kitchens on the Canary Wharf estate before transporting it to where it needs to go.

“What CWG is looking to achieve is really more than just having a positive impact in the buildings on the estate,” said Jane Hollinshead, managing director of people, culture and customer service at Canary Wharf Group. 

“It’s about how we fit into the wider ecosystem in terms of being a responsible business. 

“We’d had some conversations with The Felix Project about just doing some simple volunteering – that was really a corporate social responsibility thing.

“But this was at the time when the cost of living was really beginning to spiral out of control and there were huge issues around food waste, so I went over to see their warehouse in Poplar and it struck me what a natural partner Felix would be for all of the things that we. as an organisation. value.

Flash Back: How The Felix Project arrived in Poplar

“I thought that if we were to create something more strategic with them, then the reach we would get through their operations would be exponentially greater than if we were doing things on our own.

“From their side, our position as a landlord opens up opportunities for Felix because they are able to meet our customers, many of whom have surplus food at the end of the day – whether they are retailers or restaurants in offices. 

“It’s a really symbiotic partnership – we both bring things to further each other’s purposes.”

While CWG and Felix are still exploring the full extent of what may be possible through their collaboration, the Green Scheme is the immediate priority.

Retailers including M&S, Joe Blake’s and Waitrose have already signed up, with support also coming from the likes of Morgan Stanley and Barclays.

From left, Canary Wharf Group CEO Shobi Khan, The Felix Project CEO Charlotte Hill and CWG managing director of people, culture and customer service
>> “Our purpose is to bring people together to enhance lives now and in the future,” said Canary Wharf Group CEO, Shobi Khan. “Through partnerships like this, we aim to ensure Canary Wharf is more than just a place to live or work, but a place where you can be connected to the local community and can have a positive social impact.


“The business community at Canary Wharf has a big part to play in making The Felix Project a success and indeed some of our local companies are already on board, including Morgan Stanley and Barclays. 

“With such a concentration of retail and office businesses on the estate, a key part of our role as partner will be to introduce the charity to our wider community and bring the scale that’s needed to have a real, lasting effect on local people’s lives. 

“We have so many people who can play their part, whether they work, live or regularly visit here – I urge anyone willing to spare a couple of hours to sign up to volunteer and help us get surplus food to those who need it most.”

The partners are now keen to attract more businesses and, crucially, volunteers to drive the project forward.

“For the Green Scheme, we will act as the hub,” said Jane.

“That makes sense because we can keep the food fresh on the estate and then get it out faster than if it were sent to a warehouse first. 

“It’s also about bringing the individual volunteers out to the organisations that we and Felix are supporting.

“What happens is that the food is collected from the retailer or office restaurant by the volunteer who then delivers it. 

“We wanted that to be done in a sustainable way so it will be either on foot, by bike or via a dedicated electric van that we’ll charge up in our car parks.

“We are looking for anyone at all to volunteer for the Green Scheme – you might work or live in or near the Canary Wharf estate, or be a visitor.

“There are no boundaries when it comes to this kind of activity and we see it as a really good way to build relationships with the local community.

“We want as many people to help as possible – all volunteers have to do is to pass a health and safety induction and be able to carry a takeaway delivery service-style rucksack.”

CWG is clear. This latest initiative is very much looking beyond the borders of the estate in a bid to get as much of the community involved as possible.

Charlotte and Shobi load the dedicated electric van with surplus food
>> “In the UK, 4.7million people are struggling with the cost of food,” said Charlotte Hill, CEO of The Felix Project. “This is an issue we cannot afford to ignore and the situation is critical as the cost-of-living crisis intensifies. Many Londoners are trying to feed themselves on less than £3 a day.



“We’re thrilled to partner with Canary Wharf Group as they’re in the unique position to be able to convene the hundreds of businesses, retailers, employees and residents on the Estate to tackle this issue together, meaning we’ll have a much greater social impact than we would otherwise. 

“They have the access and logistics that we need to make the scheme a success at a time when the need is so high, and are committed to the same long-lasting, sustainable and meaningful change that we built our charity for.”  

“I think the benefit from the volunteers’ perspective is that they will be achieving something that’s meaningful,” said Jane. 

“That comes back to what I increasingly see from our own employees and customers. 

“When people come to their workplace, they want to feel they are doing something that really has value.

“When you have this huge cost of living crisis and you have in-work poverty – people who are relying on food banks even though they have jobs – then a partnership like this fulfils a purpose that is twofold. 

“Firstly, it’s reducing food waste, because there is so much that would otherwise be thrown away. 

“Secondly, because of the significant challenges the UK has faced over the last few years, food poverty is also coming through as an immediate crisis.

“The next generation particularly want to feel that they work for organisations that share their values. Part of that is having an impact in the community and a strategy for that.

“Here we are delivering something that works for our people and has benefits for CWG and our customers but also for the Felix Project and all the people and organisations it helps.”

While the Green Scheme itself is an ambitious project, Jane said it only represented the start of the collaboration between Felix and CWG – something that would grow in the months and years to come.

Volunteers will deliver food direct from Canary Wharf to the organisations supported by the Green Scheme

“We want to see how we can use the assets that we have as an organisation and explore how else we can help the charity,” she said.

“We’re looking at working with our office clients to see whether we can help them create a more diverse group of volunteers down at the Poplar depot.

“We’re talking to Morgan Stanley – which has a very effective volunteering strategy – about how that best practice can be shared.

“We’re also investigating how we can encourage people who are experts in their particular sector such as sustainability or professional services to volunteer their time to help the organisation.

“There’s a contribution of expertise, so it’s not just about the Green Scheme. It’s really about sharing knowledge and asking how we can involve our supply chain. 

“Can we make use of small businesses locally to help them deliver what they are doing, for example?

“The partnership is very much about setting out our stall to the outside world as an organisation – what our values are and what we stand for.”

Those interested in volunteering with the Green Scheme should sign up online to find out full details of the project.

Read more: How Padium is set to bring padel tennis to Canary Wharf’s Bank Street

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Poplar: How Felix’s Kitchen is cooking thousands of meals for those in need

Food charity is looking for more volunteers and donations so it can help feed more people

Staff and volunteers portion up meals at Felix's Kitchen
Staff and volunteers portion up meals at Felix’s Kitchen – image Matt Grayson

Felix’s Kitchen does an incredible thing. Recently opened on an unassuming industrial estate in Poplar the 4,400sq ft facility is ramping up production with the aim of eventually producing 6,000 meals a day using surplus ingredients from supermarkets, wholesalers and restaurants – most of which would be thrown out as they near their sell-by date.

Those meals are then distributed to people who need it for free, via a network of organisations and charities across London. 

People are hungry in the capital and cannot afford to buy food. The hard work of staff and volunteers at the kitchen goes some way to addressing that, but The Felix Project – the largest food redistribution charity in London, which operates the kitchen – expects a spike in demand in the autumn as furlough comes to an end and potential benefit cuts bite.  

It’s 2021. The UK was the fifth largest economy in the world in January.

That such organisations exist at all is a damning indictment of those managing our society.

That more and more people are expected to need their services is a shameful failure of that governance.

But there are mouths to feed right now and those doing the hard practical work to achieve that end deserve our support and admiration for spending their time on this planet compassionately helping others. 

Head of Felix's Kitchen Leon Aarts
Head of Felix’s Kitchen Leon Aarts – image Matt Grayson

Take Leon Aarts, for example. Having “rolled into hospitality by accident” at age 19, the Dutchman became a chef, rising through the fine dining world to win Michelin stars before moving to London to start a high-end food wholesale business for top restaurants in the capital. 

A change of direction followed in 2008 when he decided to close that business and create a charity with an initiative that saw diners pay 15p extra in a restaurant to feed a child in a developing country. 

He went on to cook for thousands of migrants in the camps at Calais. 

Just before lockdown, he set up Compassion London to cook for those without food in the capital as the pandemic hit, eventually using Wembley Stadium to produce around 5,000 meals a day.

The team create meals out of donated food
The team create meals out of donated food – image Matt Grayson

Having joined up with The Felix Project, right now he’s in Poplar, cooking with 12 staff and a group of volunteers as head of Felix’s Kitchen – located next door to parent charity’s latest warehouse and distribution centre.

“It’s terrible that people live in food insecurity, but we can’t let anyone go hungry while those who have the resources are figuring it out – whether that’s the Government or companies,” said Leon. 

“I think we can solve this problem if we work together and it’s a disgrace that so much perfectly good food goes to waste.

“The Felix Project gets surplus food from more than 500 businesses, whether that’s small shops or Amazon, Hello Fresh and Ocado. 

“It’s really good produce, often close to its ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date, which means you can’t sell it any more. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. It’s then distributed to almost 1,000 charities all around London who give it to people who live in food insecurity.

“For example, many workers just before Covid were made redundant – people who were living from pay cheque to pay cheque. 

“You can see, as you drive round east London, that so many people fall outside the system, and we allow it to happen – with ridiculous wages, not giving people any sense of security. 

“Many people in the capital get paid really, really, well, but a lot of people don’t – it’s almost impossible to live in London on a wage of £7 or £8 an hour.

“A few weeks ago I had a charity kitchen doing what we do here and, in talking with The Felix Project, we found funding to create this purpose-built kitchen in Poplar – we’re building up to do 6,000 meals a day, but it takes time.

“I have very experienced chefs, so they look at what comes in and they make meals out of it. We always try to do a variety – it’s crucial we do both nutritious and delicious meals.

“That’s very important to me because when people are not in a very good state, they tend not to eat so well – if you have mental health challenges, eating is not at the top of your list of priorities and they don’t even realise it, so we will be working with nutritionists to help us improve what we produce. We always make sure that there’s protein, whether meat, vegetarian or vegan.

The meals are then distributed to charities
The meals are then distributed to charities – image Matt Grayson

“We’re also guided by the surplus we have – one of our remits is that no food should go to waste, which is a very interesting challenge.

“Right now we are actively looking for volunteers, especially local people, because we serve the local community.

“Also, if local companies have surplus food, then they should get in touch with us because we don’t want any food to go to waste

“We can put it to good use, re-purpose it and give it to the people who need it. We have the resources for that – warehouses, where we can collect the food, sort it and turn it into meals.

“We get black crates from Amazon, for example, that have all different things, and we separate it out. If you’re a small business, then give it to us rather than put it to waste.

“Bigger companies that produce food for supermarkets often have a lot of waste – often it’s not their own fault. For example, if it’s going to be good weather, a firm might make a lot of barbecue packs and then it rains and suddenly they don’t sell anything. But if they don’t put it in the bins and bring it to us we can do something with it. 

“We talk to our suppliers, of course, to ask if they have any of a particular ingredient but we’re especially short of staples – rice, pasta, tins of tomatoes – that sort of thing.”

The Felix Project was created in 2016 by husband and wife Justin and Jane Byam Shaw, inspired by the compassion of their late son Felix, who died suddenly from meningitis in 2014. 

You can find out more about the charity and volunteering in east London online at thefelixproject.org.

Read e-editions of Wharf Life’s print edition here

Subscribe to our regular newsletter here

Subscribe To Wharf Life