Food heroes are serving up some local food solutions!

Posted by Kat Hobbs Activist Support Officer, London and south east

9th Jul 2012

With Oxfam's UK Poverty Program warning of a 'perfect storm' of welfare cuts and spiralling living costs and Oxfam campaigners taking to the streets to explain why one in seven people worldwide are going hungry, we desperately need some food solutions. I asked Rosa Fletcher from the UK charity FoodCycle how they are tackling the broken food system right on our doorstep.

We in the UK are surrounded by food. Shops and markets on every high street are stocked to show an abundant and constant supply of fresh food from all corners of the world, whilst adverts tempt us to eat more. So when you hear the figure that 1 in 7 people in the world go hungry each day, it is easy to assume that this affects people in other countries, because how could people go hungry when there is so much food around us?

Over 4 million people in the UK are affected by food poverty. This figure is likely to rise over the next few years as there are 3.6m UK households who are at risk of slipping into poverty as a result of spiraling living costs, shrinking incomes and welfare benefit reforms. People can be affected by food poverty if they cannot afford healthy, nutritious food, but also if they cannot easily access healthy food because of where they live or don't know how to use fresh produce or cook healthy meals. 

Whilst this inequality in access increases, supermarkets and consumers are throwing away millions of tonnes of perfectly edible food each year. This is where FoodCycle have stepped in. We have a network of over 1,000 volunteers, in 14 Hubs, in 11 different cities, who collect surplus fruit and vegetables from supermarkets each week. This food is then taken to spare kitchen spaces in the community, where the volunteers cook the food together and then serve it to people at risk from food poverty and social isolation. Our volunteers have to be creative and quick thinking, as they often won't know their ingredients until a few hours before a meal is due to be out on the tables! FoodCycle Cambridge once used 15kg of onions to create an unforgettable 3 course feast, but normally they have a wider range of vegetables! We see food as an amazing way to bring people together by providing a platform to build communities and break down social barriers. 

Each Hub is unique and serves a particular need in the community, but all have the same ethos of creating three course vegetarian meals in a friendly environment which is open to the community! For us, this is as much about the social element of cooking and dining as the immediate challenge of addressing food poverty. The benefits from cooking as a group, eating together with a range of people, building people's confidence and teamwork skills are equally important at a time when unemployment is on the increase and communities are becoming more fragmented than ever. What's great though is that all these issues are tackled in the most fun way possible, through cooking, experimenting with new recipes and meeting and eating with new people! 

FoodCycle is just one example of a food solution happening in the UK at the moment. Please get in touch, visit us on www.foodcycle.org.uk, follow us on twitter @foodcycle or pop along to your nearest FoodCycle Hub and get involved! If there is not a Hub near you then let us know if you are interested in setting up a Hub in your community. You can also help reduce the amount of food you throw away by using up your own surplus food!

Thanks to Rosa Fletcher and the volunteers at FoodCycle for sharing their story. What will you do to join hands with FoodCycle and Oxfam and make sure that the future is a feast, not a famine


Blog post written by Kat Hobbs

Activist Support Officer, London and south east

More by Kat Hobbs