Cycling, cheap food, community engagement: These are a few of my favourite things
Hello everyone – my name is Leonie, and I’m the new intern here at the Innovation Unit. It’s my fifth day here and I’ve spent this week slowly easing into life at the organisation. Today I thought I’d make my blogging debut, so by way of a self-introduction I’m going to write about FoodCycle, a fantastic charity which advocates three of my favourite things: cycling, cheap food, and community engagement. And yes, I think it definitely ticks the innovative box too.
Although it’s only been around for a few years, it’s no surprise that FoodCycle is rapidly expanding. Now consisting of 14 hubs of young volunteers operating in communities across London as well as Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Norwich, FoodCycle uses free professional kitchen space and surplus food to provide affordable, nutritious meals to those who otherwise might not have access to them, including students, the homeless and the elderly. Wherever possible, they collect and transport this food by bike, and do a lot of great work with those in need – whether it is in deprived communities, or with the young unemployed – to support them to set up and run their own volunteer groups.
I am particularly supportive of FoodCycle’s cause because of a talk and documentary that I recently attended about freeganism. Presented by the very inspiring and very passionate Katherine Hibbert, who lived as a freegan for over a year in Britain after being made redundant and subsequently wrote a book about her experiences, the event delved into some pretty shocking statistics regarding Britain’s food wastage. One of these statistics has haunted me ever since – namely, that Britain produces around 18 – 20 million tonnes of food waste a year from the municipal sector, commercial, retail and food processing industries. If, like me, you find that figure a little difficult to process, let me put it another way: as a nation, we scrap about half of our food – much of it perfectly edible.
In the light of this dire picture of Britain’s throwaway culture, we can at least take some solace in the fact that organisations such as FoodCycle are trying to confront the issue. In their mission statement, they set out three social challenges that they aim to tackle:
1. Food waste
FoodCycle reckon that 400,000 tonnes of surplus food can be reclaimed each year from the food retailer industry to be made into healthy and nutritious meals.
2. Food poverty
There are 4 million people affected by food poverty in the UK. Poor diet related illnesses cost the NHS 6 billion pounds each year
3. Youth empowerment
Young people lack the skills that are needed to find gainful employment and to get involved in their communities. FoodCycle volunteers get accreditation in Level 2 Food Safety in Catering, together with hands on cooking training, gaining valuable skills and experience which help them to find work and to become more integrated with their localities.
As well as being green, sustainable, and making good use of completely free resources that would otherwise go to landfill, FoodCycle also adds a good dose of FUN into the mixture, running workshops, film nights and cooking sessions for people in the local communities. They have recently opened their first community cafe in Crouch End, Haringey, which will be open for at least four days a week, serving ‘hearty meals at fair, affordable prices.’
A three-course meal for only £4? I know where I’m going this weekend….