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At Neighbourly we’re right behind M&S when they say their food is too good to waste.  In the five years we’ve worked together, we’re proud to have helped them donate over 36 million meals to communities and good causes.  

You might think it would be tricky to keep this up over Christmas – with stores trading at their busiest and under significant Covid restrictions - but it’s the technology behind it that helps ease the pressure and allows us to continue to deliver support at what should be a special time of year. 

Our success is a mixture of taking a hyper-local approach - building strong and respectful relationships, backed up with this clever tech. Above all – it’s about the energy and passion of people working and volunteering in the community – matched by the enthusiasm and determination of those working at M&S to make it happen. 

We currently have around 570 M&S stores across the UK involved in our food redistribution programme. Donations include any edible surplus food - including fresh fruit and veg, tins, bottles, and bakery items as well as flowers and edible gifts. The only parameter here is food safety.  

M&S colleagues build strong relationships with more than 1,400 community partners often located right on their doorstep and visiting daily to collect donations.  This personal touch is all-important and helps individual colleagues get involved with and support groups that operate in their own communities.

Brilliant use of tech has proved a huge game-changer.  We’ve helped M&S to develop an app that records when M&S colleagues reduce food that’s close to its Use-By or Best Before date, and then monitors if those products are sold at the tills. The app automatically connects with the Neighbourly platform to notify our community partners of anything unsold at the end of the day that can be collected from their local store. Our tech also allows stores to donate products where the packaging is damaged, but the food inside is safe and good quality. 

It’s incredibly easy for community groups to use as well - sending alerts using email and SMS and notifying other groups if one can’t collect. In the two years since we’ve introduced it, the number of M&S meals donated has gone up six-fold.

Colleague participation

M&S colleagues are passionate ambassadors of the redistribution programme and their feedback helped shape the app technology and process to be easily integrated into their daily routines. The associated reduction in food waste is helping colleagues understand their role in supporting M&S in their net zero carbon strategy. 

Our impact

Along with the positive environmental impact, a huge variety of different community groups are benefiting. Our programme supports people affected by homelessness as you’d expect, but also housing charities, after school clubs and community football teams. Many of the groups that collect are helping to address social isolation and foster good community relations.

Our charity partners benefit from their resources going a little further, allowing them to continue delivering job clubs, cooking workshops, and supporting at-risk, isolated and homeless members of the community.

We love getting positive feedback from groups like the Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre in Edinburgh where organisers especially appreciate the boost of fresh cut flowers which get donated alongside the fruit and vegetables and other meal ingredients.  

Future plans

There’s no doubt it has been more challenging for our charity partners to make collections during the pandemic and most recently the Omicron variant spike in December but together we are finding ways of responding and adapting.  

As we move forward, we’re reflecting on how society is changing and – in practical terms - what this means for communities we support.  We’ll continue to help M&S best serve those who need us most and find even more innovative ways of making sure resources, including food, are put to the best possible use.

M&S is always looking for new partners to work with. Local charity and community groups who would like to get involved in the food surplus programme or other charity initiatives are encouraged to email to find out more.