Rocket man

6 March 2019 | Scotland

 

Craig Johnson - founder of Launch

 

Enterprising Craig finds way to solve food waste problem by feeding hungry kids.

Surplus food going to waste is an issue in every part of the country. Now one enterprising Glaswegian is helping solve the problem in his city by using it to feed hungry school children. Glaswegian entrepreneur Craig Johnson is behind the innovative social enterprise Launch Foods which aims to fill "little tummies" but also tackle the issue food going to landfill.

He uses a converted vintage Airstream trailer to visit a different school every day after the final bell has gone in time to give hundreds of kids a decent bite to eat before they head home.

“We are not a charity. We are a not-for-profit social initiative,” explains Craig. The successful businessman used to own three restaurants. But, growing up in Glasgow, he also knows what it was like to struggle.

“This project is not about me but I know what it is like to come home to an empty fridge,” he said.

“I moved away but came back to Glasgow after being away for six years and was shocked. How is this still happening? I find it sad that children are still having to struggle.

“Food poverty is a serious issue in Glasgow and yet there is all this surplus food going to waste. I wanted to do something about that, and that is how I came up with Launch Foods.” Craig teamed up with Achieve More Scotland and local food suppliers and supermarkets. They started supplying food to clubs and camps run in the holiday. Over just a 12-week period, Craig and his converted Airstream provided meals for more than 15,000 children. The project was so popular, that a number of local schools asked if he would come back during term time. The project have now built relationships with at least five schools which they now visit at least once a week.

An average of 300 tasty and healthy meals are provided per day. The food producers provide most of the basics, and Craig sources the rest.

“I didn’t want to be serving the kids pies. We are able to give them things that they like, like chicken wraps or burgers, but they will be low fat, low salt, served with salad and a bottle of water. And we always offer a vegetarian dish.

“It is important the children understand we are not a charity so we discuss surplus food and how they are making a difference using the food truck. We like engaging with their parents and siblings too.”

Year seven pupil Taylor Morris, 11, said: “My favourite food is the curry. I think we are lucky to have been chosen for Launch to visit because there are schools where children go home hungry and because of Launch that should not happen to us. It is good to see surplus food being used as otherwise it is just being wasted. There are hungry people in Glasgow and the rest of Scotland who could really benefit from this.”

And Olivia Scott, 10, added: “I really like the wraps because they are very fresh, tasty and healthy. I think it is great that Launch come to us in case there are children who are hungry who do not have enough to eat, sometimes this may be because they didn’t eat their lunch. It is good Launch use surplus food because they are helping people. Also food is currently just being binned when it could be used to make tasty meals.”

As eye-catching as it is, the Airstream is likely to be replaced by a converted food truck which will be able to serve food more efficiently. Craig already uses another truck and is on the hunt for more as new schools contact him.

By any measure, Launch Foods, so far, is proving a successful initiative.

But Craig measures success on a different level. “I would honestly be happy if I went out of business. Because that would mean there was no need for us to be handing out surplus food anymore. I hope that day isn’t far away. For now, I just want kids to understand that strangers care.”

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