Volunteering with FoodCycle across the Capital

Volunteering with FoodCycle across the Capital

By Libby Brown – Fundraising and Communications Officer at FoodCycle HQ) You hate waste? We hate waste! You hate food poverty? We hate food poverty! And we both agree that it’s ridiculous for food waste and food poverty to exist within the same communities? We’re a match made in heaven – you’re a FoodCycler! We work with over 1,200 volunteers across the UK at our 20 projects, and, without their amazing work, FoodCycle simply wouldn’t be possible. So much of our success is down to our incredibleand, best of all, you can join them! Whether you’re a Masterchef winner in the making or a cooking novice, everyone is welcome to volunteer with FoodCycle. From collecting surplus food to chopping, serving, local outreach or fundraising, anyone can get involved and have fun whilst making a positive difference in the community! Our London Hubs (as of May 2015) Bloomsbury: Sunday mornings FoodCycle Bloomsbury serves a variety of people in the community, including older people, those struggling to get by and people experiencing social isolation. If you’ve got some free time on a Sunday morning, sign up to volunteer and help reach out to more people in the community! “I’m the youngest of ten kids and we didn’t have two pennies to rub together, so it’s in my ethos not to throw away food. Because I’m in the lower end of the market, you know, pensioner, don’t have a lot of money, I notice these things more than the average person does. Prices have gone up so much in the past year. There’s a lot of people round here that would benefit from something like this. The block across from us is full of pensioners. Most of them will live on their own and won’t have facilities to cook in.” * Terry, Guest at FoodCycle Bloomsbury For more information, come visit us at 1pm for Sunday lunch at Somers Town Community Centre on Ossulton Street, or email bloomsbury@foodcycle.org.uk. Hackney: Thursday mornings FoodCycle Hackney opened its doors in January 2015. We’ve welcomed all sorts of volunteers and cooked up some incredible dishes in just a few months! As one of our youngest projects, there are lots of volunteer roles available with Hackney Hub and you would only need to be available between 10am and 3pm on a Thursday. Our community partners Outward are interested in expanding further across the borough – if you would like to get involved with FoodCycle this could be the perfect opportunity to make a real difference! Just email hackney@foodcycle.org.uk for more information on how to become a Hackney Hub Leader, or come and share a meal with us on Thursdays at 12.30pm at the New Kingshold Community Centre, 49 Ainsworth Road (Just off Well Street). Islington: Wednesday mornings Our Islington Hub works in partnership with Islington Mind, a fantastic mental health charity. We serve people including mental health service users and those experiencing homelessness and/or long-term unemployment, providing a tasty, nutritious meal in a safe and welcoming environment. We serve a healthy lunch every Wednesday at 1pm – if you’ve got some spare time, come down to visit or sign up to volunteer today! “I live locally in Islington, and I found out about FoodCycle. I used to work for Bank of America and I was pensioned off due to ill health… with this problem I was having suicidal thoughts. I was in a crisis home for a few weeks and then I came here [Islington Mind] and I come here daily, and I come to the FoodCycle every Wednesday. I think the food is very good – you lot do a superb job. I would describe it as a little café, a nice little café, you know, like a café by a river or something where you would go for walks and have a nice little meal, that’s how I would describe it. I’ve met new people. There are people with various problems here, but when you get here your problems go away, so to speak. We can sit down and have a nice meal, which you lot do a superb job in doing. You know I would like to help out one day.” – Rebecca, FoodCycle Islington Guest LSE: Sunday afternoons Contrary to its name, FoodCycle’s longest-running Hub is not just for students – anyone can volunteer with us! FoodCycle LSE cooks and serves a meal for those living with HIV/AIDs and their families every Sunday at 5pm. We work with The Food Chain to help offer nutritional support to vulnerable people across the capital. We have opportunities to volunteer in the kitchen from 1.30 – 5pm every Sunday or to host our guests and serve the food from 4 – 7pm. If you’d like to join FoodCycle LSE, sign up to volunteer or email lse@foodcycle.org.uk for more information. Peckham: Saturday afternoons FoodCycle Peckham is one of our newest Hubs and is based in All Saints Church Hall, on Blenheim Grove. Our community meals are open to all and brought to you with the help of many friendly, enthusiastic local volunteers. The meal is served at 5.30pm on a Saturday afternoon. Plenty of volunteering opportunities are available and we welcome a wide variety of local and London-wide people every week. For more information on how you can get involved, email peckham@foodcycle.org.uk or come down to visit us this weekend! Wandsworth: Friday mornings Our Wandsworth Hub serves a range of local people, including asylum seekers and refugees, people living on low incomes and those experiencing social isolation in the community. We cook from 10.30am on Friday mornings and serve a three-course lunch at 1pm at the United Reformed Church on Rookstone Road. Check out the feature on ITV!

For more information, email wandsworth@foodcycle.org.uk or sign up to volunteer and get stuck in! Pie in the Sky Community Cafe FoodCycle also runs a community café at the Bromley by Bow Centre in Tower Hamlets. We serve tasty, affordable meals from 8.30 to 3.30 every Monday to Friday. If you’d like to develop your skills in the catering industry, gain vital work experience, or just learn to cook tasty food, then volunteering at Pie in the Sky could be perfect for you! Find out more about our volunteering and training opportunities or email sian@foodcycle.org.uk for more information.



FEATURE Cookery Classes: Do They Spell an Abundance or Abandonment of Food?

Despite what Dr. Seuss might think, we foodies at Finders Eaters know that nobody wants green and eggs and ham for brekkie, but has a culture of increasingly glamorized food, or ‘food porn’ – served up beautifully on the TV by Michelin star chefs – and the prevalence of cocktail and cooking classes offering the skills to ‘wow’ friends at dinner parties – turned us into a bunch of rotten tomatoes where our attitude to food waste is concerned?

Interview with a convert: “The food wasn’t pretty enough”

I spoke to restauranteur and self-professed ‘savvy-saver’ Michelle Brittain, a previous London resident who now runs a successful bar and foodery ‘The Coach House’ (@thecoachy1) in Humberston: Before our interview, Michelle had told me how cookery classes she attended with her partner while living in London had ‘brought them closer to food and each other’ and that she’d always wanted to work in the food industry. “We had an amazing time in the classes at the London Underground Cookery School, as well as L’atelier des Chefs in Oxford Circus” she says, admitting that she herself has considered offering classes a the new establishment.

“I used to hold dinner parties all the time, using family recipes, and fancy skills and techniques I’d learned at the various classes – My friends used to say I was getting so good it was as if I’d been going to food finishing school!’

Michelle: On “discovering my food-friendly”

Explaining when and how her attitude to food began to change: ‘the real turn-around for me’, she says, ‘was when a close friend of mine was looking for a new job in central London, and started volunteering at FoodCycle events around the city to build her skills while she was searching. She asked me to go along one day.’

Having her eyes opened for the first time to a real food waste poverty problem, Michelle said the experience made her feel embarrassed:

“There were people in the City starving and there I was worrying about how wonky my macaroons were! It was…humbling, an eye-opener to say the least.”

Michelle admitted that if she’d made a starter or dessert for a friend that didn’t look right, she’d throw it away and make a new one if it wasn’t ‘pretty enough.’ And in this she’s not alone…

Food Frenzy!

Social media platforms such as Twitter have been inundated with tweets from anti-food waste organisations and communities about the billions of tons of food that is thrown away unnecessarily:

LoveFoodHateWaste (@LFHW_UK) have also been rallying support and raising awareness about the environmental and economic detriment that food waste can cause, providing tips to combat the unnecessary throwing away of food, while saving money:

But just how wasteful is this culture?

Cookery classes boast of teaching an abundance of culinary and presentational skills…but do they really stigmatise and encourage neglect of ‘ugly’ food that is otherwise still ‘fit for purpose’? Michelle says that she previously ‘didn’t think twice’ about throwing away aesthetically inferior foodstuffs if replacing them with fresh ingredients would make for better presentation; and she suggests that in some of the cookery classes she attended that culture of thinking was shared. However, Jennifer Yong, founder of Jenius Social (@JeniusSocial), a vibrant ‘social food hub’ in Islington, disagrees.

You can read (and listen) to Finders Eaters ‘Industry Response’ interview with Jennifer here on our website!

GUEST POST: Tackling Food Waste in Sussex – The Fruit Factory 

You and I have something in common. Food. Getting together to cook, share a meal, and swap stories is something we can all relate to.On the flip side of this we instinctively know there’s something bad about wasting food. That’s why I wanted to write about Brighton Permaculture Trust’s crowdfunding appeal to finish the building of a straw bale Fruit Factory — saving unwanted local fruit from waste and turning it into delicious produce for the community.

Stopping food wastage is an invitation to celebrate and creatively enjoy the wonders of food – and come up with some fun and simple solutions. And that’s exactly what this project is all about.

Run by the Brighton Permaculture Trust the straw bale renovation will work to turn perfectly fine Sussex fruit into delicious produce, as well as teach the public. As a space for collecting fruit and gathering community, The Fruit Factory will foster a social buzz, a sort of ‘circular economy’, where those who have contributed apples, say from their garden, help with turning fruit into chutneys or juices, as their neighbour’s children learn about where those ingredients have come from and what to do with them.

Since the age of 15 I’ve been campaigning to change our attitude to waste. Asking for left overs from my school kitchen to feed my pigs I went on to the local baker and green grocer saving any thing they might be chucking away. Realising that most of the food I was collecting was fit for human consumption I decided to dig deeper and discover why so much food goes to waste.

We waste one-third of the entire produce of the earth. A billion people go hungry. We continue to chop down forests to grow more despite our vast quantities.In poorer countries a lack of post-harvest technology and infrastructure such as refrigeration contributes to wastage. The shadow side of supermarkets, wastage is inextricably tied to the manufacturing of food.

Closer to home an estimated 20 to 40% of UK fruit and vegetables are rejected before they reach the shops – mostly because they do not match the supermarkets’ strict cosmetic standards. In orchards around the country apples are left on trees because they don’t fit the bill.

But its not just supermarkets, its restaurants, shops and consumers – you and me – that are part of the picture.

This topsy-turvy food culture needn’t be this way. If we shift from the notion of ‘waste’ to one of ‘surplus’ then a whole slew of creative responses ensues.

There are so many exciting projects that are showing us the way.FareShare rescues “back of store” food waste that would otherwise stay behind restaurants, shops and supermarkets and redistributes it to charity partners where it gets turned into decent meals for those in need.FareShare Sussex, independently funded, is part of the national network working to join the dots and tackle food poverty and food waste.Another national network, The Real Junk Food Project, has a local chapter in Brighton — a city replete with good food and multiple food outlets. Again, the idea is simple: intercept food that, otherwise headed for landfill, can actually be of use and provide nourishment.

The national charity, FoodCycle, with hubs across the UK, connects volunteers, surplus food, and cooking spaces to create meals for people at risk of food poverty.

And its not just responses from charities that are doing great things. Businesses such as Rubies in the Rubble tap into the stream of discarded fruit and veg and turn them into chutneys. In Surrey, The Garden Cider Company make cider from spare and unwanted apples and pears.

The issue of food waste can be tackled with very simple ideas. The Fruit Factory, which is crowdfunding to complete the building before the next apple harvest, will be one more fine example of creatively responding to the challenge of surplus food and providing education at the same time. They need to raise £12000 before April 1st so if you can please support them and spread the word.

To find out more and to help make the Fruit Factory a reality visit the campaign here:brightonpermaculture.org.uk/fruitfactory

Written by Tristram Stuart, food waste campaigner

Top food saving cafes in London

Want to grab cheap and healthy up-cycled food on the go? Here’s our list of London’s top picks…

Click on the map:

North London

1) The People’s Kitchen Passing Clouds (@PeoplesKitchen)

peoples kitchen
Image by @PeoplesKitchen_

A volunteer run community kitchen offering up surplus food dishes. Offers FREE cooking lessons at the Kingsmead Community Centre, Kingsmead Way.

Next event: community feasts served every other Saturday (from 7th February) at 6pm at the Concorde Youth Centre, Kingsmead Way, Hackney. Volunteers welcome from 3pm.

Location: Passing Clouds, 1 Richmond Road, Dalston, E8 4AA

Contact: 07824641927

save the date
Image by James Smart

2) Save The Date (@savethedatecafe)

Part of the nationwide Real Junk Food Project, Save the Date cafe is a pop-up kitchen in Dalston providing restaurant quality surplus food on a pay-as-you-feel basis. For more information read our interview with co-founder James Smart.

Location: Abbot Street, Dalston

Opening times: Wednesday- Friday, 3pm-10pm

Next event: Disco Soup, 20th March, 17:00-23:55. Find out more.

Image by @CafeMorningSide

3) Cafe Morningside (@CafeMorningSide) A community cafe in Hackney which values community, food sustainability and healthy eating. Volunteers welcome! To read more about Cafe Morningside see our article. Location: Morningside Community Centre, Cresset Road, Hackney

Contact: 07587083131

Opening times: Thursday and Friday, 9am-4pm

South London
brixton pk
Image by @BrixtonPK

4) Brixton People’s Kitchen (@BrixtonPK)

Part of the People’s Kitchen group, this Brixton community cafe run by volunteers cooks up surplus food for people across South London.

Contact: 07466653761 or volunteerwithbrixtonpk@gmail.com

Next event: 

East London

5) FoodCycle Pie in the Sky Cafe (@FoodCycleCafe)

Image by @FoodCycle

The food saving charity, FoodCycle’s very own community cafe in Bromley by Bow. Run by volunteers it serves up affordable, healthy dishes made from surplus food.

Location: Bromley by Bow Centre, St Leonards Street

Contact: nicola@foodcycle.org.uk

Opening times: Monday-Friday, 8:30am-3:30pm

To find out more check out our liveblog and extended interview with cafe manager Nicola Corney. For other FoodCycle hubs across London visit their website.

West London

6) West London People’s Kitchen (@WestLondonPK)

west london peoples kitchen
Image by @WestLondonPK

Runs pop-up kitchens serving meals and snacks made from surplus food across West London, with payment on a pay-as-you-feel basis. Volunteers welcome!

Next event:

FoodCycle Stand Up for Sustainability: ‘No Good Food is Wasted’

Surplus Food – Where Does It All Go?!

Ever wondered what happens to all that extra grub on the crammed aisles of Tesco and Waitrose?.. Well FoodCycle has one of the answers. Every week, volunteers at each of their Hubs across the country visit local stores – including Planet Organic, Sainsbury’s and farmers’ markets – to rescue surplus food otherwise destined for the rubbish bins. They take these ingredients to a ‘spare kitchen space’ and transform them into nutritious three-course meals for guests at risk of food poverty and social isolation. Everyone is welcome and all meals are shared together with warmth and dignity. Since the savvy savers started cooking in 2009, FoodCycle has expanded to over 19 volunteer-powered community projects across the UK. Their national network of over 1,200 dedicated volunteers has served over 102,000 meals made from 119,000 kg food that would have otherwise gone to waste.

The Volunteers

But who are these food-friendly fiends? On behalf of Finders Eaters, I ventured out to find these people, and learn who they are and just what’s inspired them. Libby and Steven are two of those at the core of this big-hearted enterprise: “We don’t waste food, and this is an important thing for FoodCycle – but even more than that is what we choose to do with the food we collect” Libby explains. “One of the FoodCycle’s biggest missions is continually working towards reducing food poverty and social isolation by serving healthy meals to some of these groups, who we believe are among the most vulnerable. This is one of the reasons we’re taking part in the Breadline Challenge, to raise awareness about these kind of social problems” As its name teases, The FoodCycle’s new initiative ‘The Breadline Challenge’ (launched yesterday and continuing until Sunday 30th November) asks supporters to live from a food and drink budget toeing the line at £2.10 a day. Money is raised from participants then donating the money they would otherwise have spent on food, which Steven claims will be enough for the chairty to serve around 100 meals for those struggling to find a hot dinner.

‘Now this doesn’t mean walking to work,’ Libby assures those wishing to take part. ‘The figure we gave only applies to food and drink so it’s do-able, definitely, but the fact that it is a real challenge doing it for a week shows how hard it is for those people who have to do it in reality all of the time. In fact many of the people we work with and support at FoodCycle would be living on this, and much less.’ So how have volunteers been faring this week, and just how easy is it to stay healthy?

Is the challenge REALLY that simple?

Finders Eaters asks the people behind it all!

I’ve really enjoyed some meals, but the diet gets very similar very quickly…I must admit there’s a lot of porridge and grey risotto – that’s what happens when you get to the supermarket to find that a bag of frozen chips is the same price as two apples – Libby

‘There really are a lot of carbs required to do it’ Steven admits, ‘and you quickly realise the cheapest things are not the most healthy things. There’s a lot of bread, rice pasta’ The pair highlighted how hard it is for real people who face this reality to get hold of a nutritious meal, and why it is so frustrating to see so much abandoned surplus fresh produce on the aisles.

‘If we stop wasting food, not only do we save more money, but the food gets to the people who really need it – and on an environmental level – it’s the same as taking one in four cars off the road in terms of Carbon Dioxide emissions.’

Feeling Inspired?

The FoodCycle will be taking a festive turn this December! Don your Santa suit for a 5km charity run this Christmas – Two events will be held on Sunday 7th December in London and Liverpool to give participants the chance to run food waste out of the building!

Even my sister’s doing it – I’m so excited, it’s just a really fun morning when everyone gets together and has a laugh, and hopefully goes home and tells their friends about how we should all stop wasting food and start Food Cycling – Libby

Get Stuck In! @foodcycle – Full Audio Interview Here: