A Battersea-based food waste prevention organisation has emerged from the pandemic with many fresh ideas and a growing network of volunteers.
Waste Not Want Not Battersea collect surplus fresh ingredients from local markets, supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, and delicatessens and then either distribute those ingredients to the community or cook meals for people at social gatherings and workshops.
Global food waste totals 900 million tonnes a year, 9.5 million of it by the UK, and whilst the UN aims to halve that by 2030, it remains to be seen how plausible that aim is.
Hadas Hagos, founder of Waste Not Want Not, wants to show people how they can be creative with their food, and inspire them not to waste it.
Hagos said: “There are lots of documentaries and articles about food waste, but when you see whole pallets of blueberries from Argentina, or ready-to-eat avocados, being thrown away before your eyes it’s a different matter.”
Established in 2017 by a small core team, Waste Not Want Not has grown into an organisation with hundreds of volunteers supporting its day-to-day operations, which include food sharing sessions, healthy eating workshops and engagement with schools.
When the UK entered the first lockdown last March, Hagos and her team had to stop all their catering events, which had been their main source of income over the last three years.
Many people in the community needed food more than ever, so the team started fundraising and ramped up their services to five days a week, providing fresh ingredients and meals for homeless people in temporary accommodation sites, and other vulnerable people.
Hagos looked back at that period as one of real solidarity, as dozens of people with all sorts of skills and backgrounds threw themselves into the work of feeding their community, with food that would otherwise go to waste.
She said: “When I look back it seems like madness, how did I do it? But you’ll be surprised how much you can achieve when human beings come together.”
Prior to Waste Not Want Not, Hagos co-founded the Inside Out School, an initiative set up by and for parents who had chosen to educate their children outside formal educational settings.
Hagos says that the parents critiqued and dissected the schooling system, while imagining creative alternatives, with a mutual desire to provide more learning experiences for their children.
She said: “I have ADHD and dyslexia and also struggled in school, so seeing my daughter’s similar experience was a trigger.”
It was when the young people of the Inside Out School were taken around their community to understand homelessness and dumpster diving that it became apparent to Hagos just how much food was being thrown away.
She said: “The young people asked me if we could do something about it, and I said yes.”
Now that the country is emerging from lockdown once again, Waste Not Want Not has many plans for the months ahead, including setting up a permanent space for a Zero Waste Community Hub, which they are currently negotiating with Wandsworth Council.
Here they will offer daily cooked meals on a pay-as-you-can basis and run workshops to teach children how to grow and cook their own food.
Hagos said: “For me it’s like therapy, you look around at the world and where it’s going and it’s all quite depressing, but then you get reminded every day of human kindness through the work that we do.”
While this permanent space will be a first for Waste Not Want Not, they will continue with their travelling projects – like their Feast & Film events, which will visit new local venues and screen environmental films, accompanied by home-cooked meals.
Plans for the future also include partnering with community gardeners and local schools to create new spaces and opportunities to inspire children.
Hagos said: “There is something quite magical about watching a child making the connection between the broccoli they always see in a plastic bag, and the one growing in the ground.”
Waste Not Want Not is always trying to keep the bigger picture in mind, such as the environmental impacts of food waste dumped into landfills, while also homing in on the local.
They are currently looking to collaborate with like minded organisations to work on a pilot composting scheme for Wandsworth residents.
Hagos said: “It’s important to teach people how to compost their waste, but this will only be impactful if Wandsworth Council provide adequate food waste services.”
Featured image credit: Hadas Hagos