As a society our relationship with food is complicated. We are living through a time of unforgivable paradoxes where the news is regularly given over to stories of the increasing food poverty as well as unsustainable food wastage. According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme around 10.2 million tonnes of food was wasted post-farm in 2015, including within manufacturing, retail and household. It is no longer enough for us to simply reduce our own household waste. The Trussell Trust foodbank network noted a 13% increase in foodbank use in just six months between April and September 2018. We need to do more and become more conscious about society’s relationship with food to reduce both the social and environmental issues that go with it.
With this in mind, a year after finishing the twelve week course at Ballymaloe, I decided to put my skills to work and become a small part of the solution, joining the charity FoodCycle as a cooking volunteer. FoodCycle is marking 10 years of providing meals for people in need. Their 41 projects are based across the country. Their vision is a society where no one is hungry or lonely and their aim is to nourish communities with surplus food. Their ten-year social impact report shows that 65% of its visitors are forced to skip meals and 72% are lonely, however FoodCycle has allowed 79% of its visitors to feel more part of their community. There are three projects in Birmingham alone – I volunteer at the Birmingham Aston Project. Every Sunday the team produces a three-course meal out of surplus food from nearby supermarkets such as Morrisons and Tesco’s, both of which published their food waste data last year and have pledged to make reductions.
Volunteers face the challenge of not knowing what ingredients are going to be available on any given day. This certainly warrants some creativity and ingenuity, but the food produced is always nutritious and delicious.
An example menu that the team cooked the first time I volunteered was;
– Avocado salad
– Vegetable Stir fry with noodles or potato wedges
– Fruit salad and/ or cake.
– Tea and coffee
Guests served: 44
Food saved: 200kg
Over the past 10 years, FoodCycle has saved 424,895kg of food either made into meals or given out to visitors to take with them. Vegetables play a key role at FoodCycle as it has been shown that when food poverty hits, fruit and vegetables are among the food sacrificed due to their expense.
There is a certain buzz at a FoodCycle project and it is easy to see the difference it makes to guests whether they come just once or are regulars. It gives them a safe place to meet new people and escape the challenges of their day-to-day lives even if it is just for a few hours. It is a sad fact that this is a service that is needed in our society but every little action helps and anyone can volunteer with them either as a cook (no cooking experience needed) or as a host who looks after guests. I’ve really been enjoying my volunteering with them so far and there is a really great team spirit.
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