UK households binned £13 billion worth of edible food in 2015 – that doesn’t even include waste from supermarkets or restaurants. Starting out with a single branch in 2009, FoodCycle now has 36 branches nationwide and is helping to reduce food waste, as well as tackling social isolation. The charity is run in partnership with Rushey Green Time bank, another community project in the local area.
Every week FoodCycle collects reduced food items from supermarkets that would otherwise end up in the bin. The team of enthusiastic volunteers then uses these items to cook up three course vegetarian meals for those most in need. This year the Lewisham branch has already served 1,344 guests, saving 3 tonnes of surplus food in the process – all of which has been done without government funding.
Alongside a group of dedicated volunteers, team leader Hannah Stott has been running the Lewisham branch for over a year. I got in touch with Hannah to find out how the project works, why it’s important and how you can help.
What initially attracted you to the charity?
Two-fold: reducing surplus food and the fun involved in cooking. Working at FoodCycle has been a real eye-opener. Giving people a safe space and a nice environment to eat in three hours per week makes me feel like I’m really giving something back to the community.
What’s a typical day like for a FoodCycle volunteer in Lewisham?
The day starts off by collecting the food that supermarkets would have thrown away. After that we go to venue, weigh the food and sort it into different categories – this means we know how much stock we have for the day. We split the volunteers into cooks and hosts – then we get cracking. The guests then arrive from 1p.m. to have some food and a chat.
Parlez, a local restaurant in Brockley, helps us with monetary as well as food donations – this helps us to buy rice, tea bags and other stock in bulk which helps to save money.
Favourite moments from the sessions?
It’s the little things – seeing people become regulars and watching their social isolation slowly melt away is really rewarding. For example, we have two widows that came and didn’t know each other to begin with. After some time they sat together, had a chat and realised that their life-stories were similar which helped them to bond. It’s these sorts of human interactions that give people who are socially isolated the confidence to reintegrate back into society. I think that giving people a space to eat, as opposed to going to a foodbank, is really important because of the social aspect.
To find out how to volunteer for FoodCycle, visit here.
Words, Imogen Thomson @hector_imogen
Pic: FoodCycle Lewisham