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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Martha McHardy

King thanks ‘remarkable’ food charity volunteers helping vulnerable Londoners


The King has praised the efforts of the “remarkable” food charity volunteers who help prevent vulnerable Londoners from going hungry.

Charles made a solo trip to meet staff and volunteers at The Felix Project after the Queen Consort was forced to pull out of the visit due to her recovery from Covid-19. The Felix Project, London’s largest food redistribution charity, helps thousands of people living in poverty by taking advantage of surplus supermarket food.

Its kitchen makes between 3,500 and 5,000 meals every day and last year prevented more than 12,000 tonnes of food from going to waste by distributing it to families, the homeless, the elderly and other vulnerable groups.

More than 2 million meals have been distributed by the charity so far to organisations which either help people with no access to cooking facilities or provide meals but do not have the catering facilities to feed everyone using their service.

King Charles pays a visit to The Felix Project with London mayor Sadiq Khan (AP)

During Wednesday’s visit, the King toured The Felix Project’s warehouse and kitchens, where meals were being packed and prepared, and told volunteers they were setting a “fantastic example”.

Unveiling a plaque to mark the visit, Charles said: “I must just say what a remarkable organisation The Felix Project is.

“I wanted to join in thanking them and congratulating them on the remarkable differences they are making all around this country. You are setting a fantastic example. Above all, it is a wonderful example of volunteering at its best.

“So I can’t thank you enough, and all the volunteers, who represent a remarkable number all around this country, who make so many valuable things happen in their remarkable way.

“So thank you to all the volunteers. Hopefully there may be some Coronation Champions volunteers among you, never know.”

Major donors to The Felix Project – including property tycoon Gopichand P Hinduja, his wife Sadhna and daughter Rita Chhabria, as well as Tesco CEO Ken Murphy – were all thanked by the King. Also present was the Evening Standard proprietor and Independent shareholder Evgeny Lebedev.

King Charles with Felix Project founders Justin and Jane Byam Shaw (Jeremy Selwyn)

The Felix Project was set up by Justin Byam Shaw, a shareholder in The Independent, in memory of his son, who passed away suddenly from meningitis at the age of 14.

Mr Byam Shaw, who was recently awarded an OBE in the King’s new year honours list, started the charity with only two food distribution vans in 2016. It is now the biggest charity of its kind in London. Charity co-founder Jane Byam Shaw, Mr Byam Shaw’s wife, was also awarded an OBE for her role in setting up the charity.

Mr Byam Shaw said: “The cost of living crisis means increasing numbers of people simply cannot afford to feed their families.

“Many of the organisations we supply are seeing the demand for their services more than double and all of them need more food from us. We have more than 500 charities and schools on our waiting list, of which 175 applied to us in the last three months alone.

“The Felix Project has the capacity to meet this demand but we urgently need more financial support and food in order to do so.”

In partnership with The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund, the charity recently received a starter fund of £1 million, including a substantial personal donation from the King, which is being used to supply more than 800 fridges and freezers to organisations across the UK to help store more fresh and frozen food.

King Charles unveils a fridge with The Felix Project co-founder Jane Byam Shaw (Getty Images)

Charles unveiled one of the fridges during his visit, destined for Hackney City Farm. It is the first time the King has unveiled a fridge or a freezer, and the event will be recorded on the court circular, the official record of royal engagements.

The King also watched the chefs preparing huge quantities of lentil and vegetable tagine – and even asked for the recipe.

Kitchen manager Nick Kerle said afterwards: “When we told him about the tagine, he said ‘that sounds amazing’ and asked for the recipe.”

More than 2 million meals have been distributed by the charity so far (Getty Images)

The Palace announced last week that Camilla, 75, had tested positive for Covid-19 after suffering from cold-like symptoms, but Buckingham Palace said she has since made an “excellent recovery”.

Charlotte Hill, The Felix Project’s chief executive, said Camilla was missed, especially after her recent visit with Charles to one of the organisations that receives food from The Felix.

She said: “We recently went out to the Harrow Hub, who are one of the community partners we deliver food to, and His Majesty and the Queen Consort both were able to come on that visit.

The King spoke to volunteers distributing meals during his visit (Getty Images)

“So of course we’re disappointed that the Queen Consort isn’t here today, but we hope there’ll be a chance in the future for her to come out and visit a Felix Project depot and we wish her all the best in her recovery.”

The Felix Project recently received a £120,000 grant from The Independent’s On the Breadline campaign, which raised £4m to help the most disadvantaged people across the UK.

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