Innovation In Giving

FoodCycle has developed a social franchise model to scale its network of volunteer-powered hubs – which address food wastage, food poverty and social isolation.

When FoodCycle began working with Nesta, the four-year-old charity had already earned much acclaim for its innovative model – yet the idea is deliciously simple. Each community hub runs on a triple donation model: supermarkets donate surplus food, local organisations give spare kitchen space and volunteers give up their time to create freshly cooked meals for people in the community.

The charity was looking for support to scale its existing network of 14 hubs, and increase its impact. To do this, it faced two key challenges: how to ramp up local hub fundraising efforts, and what was the best (and most sustainable) growth model?

FoodCycle worked with a range of partners to test three different growth models, to address these challenges: franchising, staff-led growth (where stand-out hub leaders would mentor volunteers to develop new leaders and hubs), and using technology to boost hubs’ fundraising and volunteering potential.


With support from the Innovation in Giving Fund, FoodCycle has developed a successful and sustainable social franchising model.

FoodCycle manages national relationships with UK supermakets and has agreed systems to safely use their surplus food to ensure that no good food is wasted. In return for a management fee, FoodCycle provides franchisees with a package of support, including training, online systems, marketing and access to its annual Hub Leader Conference. This is followed by regular support to ensure that franchised Hubs are sustainable, of high quality and capable of delivering real social impact.

By early 2014 FoodCycle had opened four new franchised Hubs, in Salisbury, Sheffield, Wandsworth and Portsmouth, each run by partners with an established local presence.

Using the FoodCycle brand, the franchises were able to attract funding from trusts and foundations, corporates or local authorities before starting their Hubs.

FoodCycle Wandsworth said: “Working with FoodCycle has made setting up the Hub so easy. We were able to attract local funding to start the Hub, we got access to links with supermarkets and we got training in everything from managing volunteers to food safety.”

Applications are now open to develop new FoodCycle Hubs across the UK. For more information email:

The award

In December 2012, FoodCycle was awarded £119,074 through the Open Innovation Programme to cover staff salaries, design of materials, contributions to office costs, producing franchise documentation and designing, testing and evaluating fundraising trials.

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