The King has marked his 75th birthday by launching an initiative to support charities feeding the nation with unwanted food – and surprised a Big Issue seller with a generous donation.
Charles visited a food distribution hub in Oxfordshire to kick-start his Coronation Food Project with the Queen and found himself twice serenaded with verses of Happy Birthday.
The Duke of Sussex, Charles’ estranged son, is expected to ring his father to wish him a happy birthday according to an online BBC article, and the milestone anniversary has already been marked by goodwill messages on the Royal Family’s social media accounts.
The head of state is the cover star of the latest Big Issue edition after penning a short message about food waste and those in need and he handed seller Kelvin, 61, £10 for the magazine costing £4 at the end of the event.
He wrote: “Food need is as real and urgent a problem as food waste – and if a way could be found to bridge the gap between them, then it would address two problems in one.
“It is my great hope that this Coronation Food Project will find practical ways to do just that – rescuing more surplus food, and
distributing it to those who need it most.”
Kelvin, who has been homeless for periods of his life since a teenager, was joined by Big Issue founder Lord Bird and joked afterwards: “He gave me cash, that does prove something – he does carry money.”
The 61-year-old, whose pitch is outside Somerset House in central London, added: “He asked if I was in accommodation and about selling the Big Issue. I said it’s got me through the bad times and it has a positive social message.”
He said about the Coronation Food Project: “I think it goes to show he cares, he’s reaching out to the general public.”
Charles and Camilla were given a tour of the South Oxfordshire Food and Education Alliance, part of FareShare, a national network of charitable food redistributors.
They met volunteers sorting boxes of produce from avocados and green peppers to soft drinks, others filling delivery vans, and toured a new kitchen where people will be educated about food nutrition and large numbers of meals prepared from food destined for landfill
When the King walked over to the delivery vans, a small group of people nearby began singing Happy Birthday, and he greeted Katy Anne Perugia who led the rendition, she said: “The King said to us ‘how did you know it was my birthday’ and we all laughed.”
Gun salutes were fired across the capital to mark the King’s anniversary with 41 volleys fired at noon by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery from Green Park, and an hour later the Honourable Artillery Company fired 62 volleys at the Tower of London – an extra 21 for the City of London.
Dame Martina Milburn, who is leading the Coronation Food Project with Baroness Louise Casey, said the initiative had three elements – reducing manufacturing and supermarket waste, supporting the expansion of food distribution hubs and awarding grants to organisations working in the sector.
She added: “What the foodbanks have been telling us is they’ve seen an increase in people using them over the summer, which is unprecedented.
“So we’re expecting a complete tsunami this winter.”
Before leaving, the King met senior representatives from leading supermarkets and budget food retailers who have signed up to the Coronation Food Project pledge to distribute more surplus food.
Those invited sang Happy Birthday to the King who smiled as they group marked his milestone.
Later, London’s Piccadilly Lights were lit up with a birthday message for Charles and the tourist attraction also displayed a quote from his Big Issue article.
Big Issue founder Lord Bird described the King’s new project as a “very organised” attempt to bring together lots of food programmes, adding: “I raised the question with the King that we need to spend more of our time and efforts on prevention and cure and he agreed with me.
“The parting words he said to me were ‘yes, we really need to do more prevention’.
“To me, these are words that can build a better social programme for eradicating poverty. We need to deal with the emergency but we need to deal with preventing the emergency happening in the first place.”