Interview with Mary MBE, CEO of FoodCycle. We discuss Movemeon’s pandemic response, how Food Cycle utilised free support during the crisis and what effect the pandemic has had on this CEO.
In reaction to the outbreak of COVID-19, Movemeon deployed a pandemic response initiative, Consultants Against COVID-19, now titled Movemeon’s Pro Bono Professionals. 470+ strategic and commercial professionals are providing their services for free to support any charities, public sector and other not for profit organisations in need.
Movemeon is now providing this as permanent service, which is completely free, with no hidden fees. Matching charities and NGO’s with pro bono support from Movemeon’s network during the pandemic and beyond.
So far Movemeon’s pro bono professionals have supported the NHS, ChildAid, Doctors without borders, UN women and many more…
If you are in need of support email firstname.lastname@example.org
“Movemeon’s Pro bono support came along just at the right time last year when we were unable to host our community meals and looking for ways to continue to strengthen our communities through alternative services. Movemeon provided an incredible consultant called Jess, who helped us understand the value of our Check-in and Chat and delivery service during the pandemic and optimise our guest experience.”
Mary McGrath MBE,
Mary, in your own words, please describe what FoodCycle does, and how they have grown
FoodCycle is an incredible charity, that in normal times builds communities through the provision of a healthy nutritious three-course meal for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation. We have incredible teams of volunteers up and down the country who rescue perfectly good food that was about to be thrown away, magically turn this food into hearty meals and then open our doors and welcome 1500 people per week to dine with us across 42 locations.
When I started at FoodCycle we had 14 locations, and over the past seven years, we have hugely expanded our services. We have worked hard to ensure our volunteers are well trained – in food safety, allergens, nutrition, giving guests a big welcome, understanding mental health. By training our volunteers well we ensure our guests receive a great service.
Consequently, 82% of guests make friends when attending our community meals, and feel part of the community. The healthy food means that guests have the opportunity to eat more fruit and vegetables as well as try foods they may never have eaten before. With 2/3 guests regularly skipping meals and worrying that their food may run out it’s essential that we provide them with a super nourishing warm meal.
What is your current role at FoodCycle and what were you doing before?
I joined FoodCycle as CEO in 2013 and it has been a privilege to watch this amazing charity grow and develop over the past seven years. My working life has been devoted to food, first at Grocery Aid and then at FareShare, because I really love it, but also because I understand how important its role is in bringing people together. What I love most about FoodCycle, is that we put people at the heart of our work.
What motivated you to join FoodCycle, and what do you enjoy most about working there?
I was keen to understand how important food could be in building communities. I understood a lot about surplus food and this certainly motivates many people to volunteer with us. However, the magic of FoodCycle is the people. I am always struck by how kind, creative and giving our volunteers are. They make every meal super special and as an organisation, we know this event may be the only occasion in that week when people get to talk to others.
How have Movemeon’s pro bono professionals supported you and your organisation?
Movemeon’s Pro bono support came along during the pandemic. We were unable to host our community meals so we quickly pivoted to a delivery service, with new volunteer roles, policies and procedures.
We realised though that both guests and volunteers were missing out on having conversations, so we started an additional new service called Check-in and Chat. Whereby we trained volunteers to get in touch with guests and ensure they had a 15-minute call every week – to talk about the food delivery service initially, but eventually developed into a weekly natter.
We logged all calls on Salesforce, with key topics of conversation and what the conversation and delivery service had meant to the guest. We knew we had heaps of incredible data – but did not have the time or the in house tech to analyse this valuable information. Movemeon provided an incredible consultant called Jess who went through over 1000 successful calls to pull all the data together in one report. From this, we were able to understand how valuable our service had been to them and pull out key quotes.
This support has been important to us as we look to fund our work and has demonstrated that both service – Check-in and Chat and enabling people to access food through our delivery service were essential in the pandemic.
How has this worldwide pandemic affected you personally/your work life?
The pandemic has had a huge impact. We can’t run community meals so we’ve had to be agile, quickly adapt and ensure guests receive food and conversation. More recently we’ve got back to cooking in the kitchens again and encouraging those that can to come out and queue for food at our normal venues. This is important for guests, as it provides structure, enables a social distanced conversation with people whom they may have known when we all dined together and ensure they have a healthy meal. We knew with food delivery that not everyone has access to cooking facilities, so being able to provide a nourishing meal in this way is important.
However, because we responded so well during the pandemic and we are fully aware that the future for many will be challenging we are more determined than ever to grow our services across the country and have recently developed an ambitious three-year plan that will see us grow to 100 locations by 2024!
You’ve recently been awarded an MBE (congratulations!) How did this come about?
The MBE was for services to disadvantaged and vulnerable people. For me, this award is a testament to all of the team at FoodCycle – trustees, staff and volunteers who work so tirelessly to provide a great service to people who need our help.
Which of the following are you doing more of because of coronavirus?
I have spent more time understanding coronavirus – reading numbers, assessing outbreaks, writing policies, ripping them up again with every change, working with venue partners to let us get back to cooking.
We have also re-assessed our services and I’m excited that we will keep check-in and chat to complement our community meals when we’re back up.
What are you most looking forward to doing once social distancing rules have been relaxed?
I can’t wait to get back to community dining. It is one of the most uplifting and fun activities that anyone could do. I’ve missed seeing our lovely guests and hearing their stories – likewise, I’ve really missed seeing all our incredible volunteers.
On a personal note, I cant wait to hug people again and see friends I’ve not seen in ages.
Read more inspiring stories from Movemeon’s pandemic response:
Pro Bono Professionals