Our Work with FoodCycle – Promoting Healthy Attitudes to Food

Hannah Cornick, Head of Sustainability and Social Innovation at Danone UK & Ireland, volunteering with Mary McGrath MBE,  Chair of Trustees for FoodCycle

Promoting healthy nutrition and tackling food waste are just two areas that we focus on at Danone UK & Ireland as part of our Impact Journey. So, what better organisation to partner with than national charity FoodCycle. Here, Hannah Cornick, Head of Sustainability and Social Innovation at Danone UK & Ireland, talks more about the partnership and shines a light on just some of the volunteers who are working to promote healthy attitudes to food and enable access to nutritious meals.


We began our partnership with FoodCycle in 2023 and have since been working together to help upskill FoodCycle’s volunteers and guests on healthy nutrition. FoodCycle is a community dining charity that provides both nutritious meals and great opportunities for conversation for people from all walks of life.  All the meals are created from surplus food that has been donated and transformed by volunteers into a delicious three course vegetarian meal. Working to tackle food waste, reduce food poverty and create social spaces for people who may feel isolated, the organisation has thousands of volunteers every week helping to connect communities.


The work they do really is amazing – I’ve volunteered myself and seeing how a whole load of seemingly random ingredients becomes a delicious meal was really so impressive. But what makes it special is the fact that it’s more than feeding the hungry – it’s providing people with nutritious, healthy food, as well as practical advice and support.


A common mission 


So how has Danone helped? FoodCycle’s goals are so aligned with our own mission – to bring health through food to as many people as possible. So when we began our partnership, we wanted to ensure that our support went beyond funding, drawing on the expertise we have in-house through our dietitians and nutritionists.


Last year we set about developing some materials in partnership with nutrition agency Nutrilicious, as well as the FoodCycle team. Together we created a new, refreshed volunteer training module with a focus on healthy and nutritious eating to help support volunteers. This included cooking tips, helpful information on nutrition and how to incorporate it into meal planning, as well as a cooking video to put these tips into action.


With guests in mind, we also created a guide to eating well. This includes tips around cooking from scratch or with limited equipment, shopping tips including how to shop to reduce food waste – from fresh food, to frozen or tinned, as well as information on how diet influences health and steps that can be taken to follow a healthy nutritious diet. It also included some bespoke affordable recipes to help give guests some inspiration for cooking at home.


Working together to make healthy nutrition accessible


It's really important that information on healthy nutrition is accessible to everyone. Together we can all work to promote healthy attitudes to food. But it’s really the FoodCycle volunteers who are really instrumental in sharing this information with guests and encouraging open conversations about healthy eating.


Like Hannah, from Exeter, who has been volunteering at her local FoodCycle for over two years now. In that time, she’s volunteered more than 100 hours! It was her general interest in cooking and healthy eating that inspired her to join the project. And as a part time Senior Lecturer at Exeter Medical School, Hannah has a keen interest in the role of healthy eating in overall health and disease prevention. As a volunteer, she utilises these skills to help deliver nutrition training for other FoodCycle volunteers with a view that it’ll help the other volunteers not only with their cooking, but also in their conversations with guests. 

“Personally I like going and cooking with others. It’s always impressive what you can create on the day with ingredients and then getting the feedback from guests,” explains Hannah. “It’s actually quite shocking to see how much surplus food is donated – so it’s great to see the project taking food waste and putting it to good use. I’ve really enjoyed delivering the new volunteer training. It covers such an array of topics, including things like barriers to eating, which is really important to keep in mind when having conversations with guests. Not everyone has the same access to ingredients or equipment, some people even have to turn their fridges off overnight to save on costs, so it’s really important that the tips we give and the conversations we have on healthy eating are fit for purpose for different circumstances.”

In London, Kelly started volunteering at her local FoodCycle project in Hackney more than a year and a half ago after moving to the area. FoodCycle was a fantastic chance to not only volunteer but also for Kelly to connect with her local community. Through her time at the project, she has been able to get to know people from all walks of life, including the other volunteers as well as guests. Kelly also has a keen interest in nutritional therapy, delivering corporate talks on nutrition. She’s been able to use this expertise to open up conversations with FoodCycle guests on the importance of healthy nutrition and balanced diets.

“It’s been so great to connect with people from all kinds of backgrounds. London can sometimes be a lonely place, but the FoodCycle projects create kind and collaborative environments where you can really feel part of your local community,” reflects Kelly. “I feel passionate about nutrition and its overall impact on our wellbeing, so it’s great to be able to have these conversations with guests as well, and provide them with practical tips that they can actually put into good use at home.”

It's great to hear first-hand from some of the fantastic FoodCycle volunteers – and of course we encourage our own Danoners to help out at their local FoodCycle projects too!  So far Danoners have volunteered over 338 hours to support FoodCycle.