As part of our series on what you can do about food waste, in this article we look at the food supply chain and volunteering. What happens to food that gets unsold at grocery stores? In some grocery stores they sell some of these items at a discount, but what happens to the rest? Not all of that food is inedible or not safe to eat but is just past the “best before” date. This type of food is still edible but most of us pass over this stuff. An organization called FoodCycle uses surplus or leftover produce and food items from supermarkets and other food retailers and turns this into cooked meals for those in need in the local community. The process to join FoodCycle as a volunteer was a simple one via online forms and we were both looking for a way to give back through food and volunteering.
He says: I did not know what to expect when I went to my first FoodCycle meeting. Greeted by the team lead for that day I had a feeling that this was going to be pretty easy going. The team leader was energetic and cheerful. We helped out setting up the tables and kitchen. Once done, he placed the ingredients that were given to him that day from Planet Organic; a few squashes, baby pumpkins, courgettes and green beans. This was like a cooking show mystery box challenge. I was impressed by the creativity of the volunteer team with me that day within seconds there were many suggestions on what to do with this food. We decided to make a squash pasta and Caribbean inspired green beans and rice. I was happy to take a back seat and help the team by chopping up the items as they worked flavour into their dishes. The pumpkin and squash seeds were toasted and this made a nice snack on the side as part of the meal. That day we had only a few visitors as it was the first week into the New Years and some people did not know whether or not FoodCycle would be open. The following week I told my other half of Love2Feed to see if she would want to join to help out…
She says: I used to volunteer back home in Sydney at various soup kitchens and community events and always wanted to do something similar in London aside from all the constant travelling and eating. He asked me if I would like to help out with FoodCycle one weekend in London at the Bloomsbury Hub, a not for profit that aims to reduce food waste. I thought this would be a great way for us to spend time together doing something we love, while taking some time to give back to the community. This particular weekend, Planet Organic donated some leftover ingredients that we used to make a ‘Tuscan Bean stew’ with garlic bread. It was a simple but heart warming dish for a snowy, icy and cold day in London. The Bloomsbury Hub is one of the newer hubs in London, so the number of visitors is still quite low. We didn’t really know what to expect given the dreary weather conditions, but there were about 7 people that came through to eat the meal we prepared and we chatted to them. One of the men who was there trekked through the snow and caught a bus all the way to Bloomsbury to eat this lunch. At the end of the day, I’m remind myself by a quote from Mother Teresa – “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. you help out it’s the small things that make little differences.” – whether it’s one or one hundred people that you might help out, a small gesture can make a big difference.
FoodCycle is a great organization that takes food destined for the landfills and creates good food out of it. However in some hubs they find it hard to get it’s message out so that more people come out to enjoy the food. It is not recycled food as some people may think it is, it is just a value add in our food supply chain. The food is for everyone in the community whether you can afford it or not. Check out some of these pictures of the food we made while at FoodCycle.