Activism

Veteran who fought Covid and homelessness battles food poverty at Christmas

Cocoa Fowler is making sure the surplus food in his community is going to people who need it — but he needs your help to do it.

Cocoa fowler collecting food for his Food for Nought charity

Cocoa Fowler has been running Food for Nought since 2017

A formerly homeless veteran is fighting food poverty this Christmas, delivering leftover food from farmers and supermarkets to food banks and community fridges in his local area.

Cocoa Fowler, from Peterborough, has delivered more than 1,200 tonnes of food through his charity since 2017, but being hospitalised with Covid-19 and pneumonia in May means he needs a bit more support over the festive period.

“I will always try my best to carry on collecting food and giving to the community where needed, but Covid has made me weaker,” Cocoa told The Big Issue. 

Now, Food for Nought, run by Cocoa, his friend and colleague Neil Cowson, and a team of volunteers, is looking to find a permanent base and upgrade some of their second-hand vans so they can deliver more food to those who need it.

The charity has set an ambitious target of £10,000 to help them scale up the operation through an online donations page titled Cocoa’s Christmas Appeal.

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest network of food banks, has predicted a massive increase in families needing support with food over Christmas. Research published in September suggested food banks could be giving out six support parcels every minute.

Cocoa said food waste has massively increased in the Peterborough area and across the country since lockdown, often due to “major chain restaurants… shutting down.”

Food for Nought were “drafted in to clear out the freezer and fridges [at some restaurants] to re-distribute the excess food that would have otherwise been wasted,” he said.

He said the team is also currently tackling a large backlog of aeroplane food. 

With furlough, reduced wages and the elderly shielding Cocoa says the reliance on food donations is now huge but many people are embarrassed about their situation.

“We speak to all people that we provide for and we try to build a rapport” he said. “I can relate and I try to assure them it will all be ok in the end.” 

If Food for Nought had a base to work from, Cocoa says it would “mean the world”.

They would consolidate their collections within the Peterborough and Huntingdonshire area, which would allow greater access to the excess food and enable more volunteers to help them.

Raised in the care system, Cocoa left school to serve in the Royal Artillery for 15 years.

In 2005, he volunteered in Sri Lanka with the tsunami relief effort but became homeless when he returned to the UK, battling with physical and mental health issues.

It was only when he approached a charity for help with food that he saw a new life for himself and after being asked to help as a volunteer driver the idea of Food for Nought was born. 

“I was once a person in need and have an understanding of how it feels.

“Being there to help people get out of the difficulties they are in is a great reward,” Cocoa said.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
'We are here and we exist': Inside the neighbourhood offering sanctuary to queer Russians and Ukrainians
Pride

'We are here and we exist': Inside the neighbourhood offering sanctuary to queer Russians and Ukrainians

Actor Liz Carr says it hurts to hear her younger self 'wanted to die'
Liz Carr
Disability rights

Actor Liz Carr says it hurts to hear her younger self 'wanted to die'

Feeling like change in the UK isn't possible? Let these 28 purposeful campaigns prove otherwise
Activism

Feeling like change in the UK isn't possible? Let these 28 purposeful campaigns prove otherwise

Back to Black actor Eddie Marsan: 'There aren't any no-go areas in Tower Hamlets'
London

Back to Black actor Eddie Marsan: 'There aren't any no-go areas in Tower Hamlets'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know