Sidcup man starts Bexley branch of Food Not Bombs to give back

PUBLISHED: 11:52 13 December 2012

L-r: John Steed and Martin Bowman

L-r: John Steed and Martin Bowman


With record numbers of people using food banks, it seems crazy that farms and other suppliers are still throwing away huge amounts of produce.

Martin Bowman loading food to take to the hostelMartin Bowman loading food to take to the hostel

Sidcup man Martin Bowman has decided to do something about the situation.

He established the Bexley branch of Food Not Bombs, a collective of volunteers who deliver vegetarian and vegan food to those in need.

He wanted to make his contribution to ending the global food crisis, though it wasn’t easy to get the group going.

“It took a huge effort getting our branch up and running,” he says. “Though it’s a worldwide organisation, Food Not Bombs is very de-centralised. You’re not given a start-up pack!

The Food Not Bombs teamThe Food Not Bombs team

“But I muddled through and travelled around Bexley with my friends and Oyster card trying to find farms and stores to give us food.

“We found at first people were a bit reluctant to get involved for two reasons. They worried that they wouldn’t have enough surplus and they were wary about giving their wasted food to strangers off the street, but we found a handful of willing suppliers.”

Bill Kelsey, owner of Kelsey’s Farm Shop in Sidcup, was hooked on the idea immediately.

His farm donates food twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, before it is taken to St Mungo’s, a homeless hostel in New Cross.

Bill, 46, said: “The food is good enough to serve to people, just not quite good enough to send to supermarkets.

“I don’t want to put a halo on my head but it’s great to be part of a worthy cause and give something to people less fortunate. If people at the hostel have one decent meal a week out of it, that can’t be a bad thing.”

Though Martin has just three donors – as well as Kelsey’s there is Swanley Bakery and Ruxley Farm in Sidcup – they make a huge difference to the needy.

However, he is desperate for any other food businesses to get involved.

Martin is one of four co-ordinators along with dozens of volunteers. They range from students to former hostel users showing their appreciation for Martin and his colleagues.

He said: “That makes it worthwhile. The hostels are really grateful for the service we provide.

“It gives people staying there one really good meal once a week, which they haven’t got to sort out for themselves.”

Martin’s motivation comes from seeing food wasted needlessly.

He says one billion malnourished people in the world could be fed by the 40 million tonnes of food thrown away every year in the United States.

“The impact of wasted food is huge,” he says.

“This is good quality food and we try to get it to people who really need and want it. We’re principally a group of people brought together by a belief in this idea.

“It actually costs businesses money to throw food away whereas we’re happy to come and pick up wastage for free, so it’s a win-win situation.”

Bill agrees: “I’d recommend other businesses get involved in this project – it’s better than wasted food ending up in landfill, after all.”

If people want to find out more about their local branch of Food Not Bombs, visit or email

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