A charity that tackles poverty and social isolation by serving a free meal using excess supermarket ingredients launched in Wandsworth last weekend.
FoodCycle opened it’s Tooting hub on Saturday February 22, where residents were served a nutritious three-course lunch thanks to ingredients sourced from Sainsbury’s and nearby greengrocers.
Unlike food banks and Fairshare which give food away, FoodCycle collects, prepares and serves a three-course lunch every Saturday to those in the community who are at risk of social isolation and food poverty. The non-processed food is prepared Ready Steady Cook style by its passionate volunteers.
Sally Morse, who lives in Clapham, volunteered at the Tooting hub.
“You turn up, decide what to make and have to set a three-course menu,” she said.
“Its quite fun, it’s like you’re preparing a dinner party for your friends, so you get to know people while chopping food.”
FoodCycle is a nationwide initiative and already has five branches in London. Alarmingly, the UK food industry sends 1.6 million tons of surplus food to landfill, despite the fact that four million people in the UK are in food poverty. FoodCycle believes the two should never co-exist, and provides an answer to this problem.
Charlotte Goodwin, another volunteer, who also works as an environmental consultant for Thames Water, said: “It’s all about finding local solutions to climate change. Re-using food is a way to avoid using excess carbon. It makes a big difference to the environment, every week we weigh how much food would have been wasted.”
FoodCycle brings together the most socially isolated parts of the community, including the elderly and people with mental health problems.
Phil, 90, was the oldest person at the Tooting launch, and was chaperoned by a member of staff from one of Tooting’s care homes.
Another beneficiary, Michael, suffers from bi-polar disorder and said the initiative allowed him to make friends with other service users.
“I’m a very isolated individual, but the first time I came here people accepted me,” he said.
Everyone is welcome at FreeCycle, which aims to challenge community cohesion by bring together residents from different parts of the community. People from different socio-economic, religious and ethnic backgrounds come together and interact over a common ground – the food.
Tooting MP Sadiq Khan said: “Nine months ago, we opened our first food bank, near Wandsworth. In two months, 2,000 people have used it, 900 of them children. It’s heart breaking to see children going hungry – you expect that in other parts of the world or other parts of the country but in one of the richest cities, in the richest part, it’s heart breaking.”
The vegetarian only menu was met with great reviews from the guests. The healthy three-course meal included Tomato and Red Pepper Bruschetta to start, Mushroom and Pearl Barley for the main, and Spiced Banana and Fig pudding for dessert. Any left over food is taken to homeless shelters in Tooting.
A young mum who joined the lunch said: “We love stuff like this, it’s a great community thing, you chat to people you wouldn’t normally chat to. It’s a really positive thing and I really believe in the idea and ethos.”
Lunch is served every Saturday from 1pm-2.30pm at Mushkil Aasaan, 222 Upper Tooting Road, London, SW17 7EW.
To get involved email Kemi Akinola at [email protected].
Photo courtesy of lynnefeatherstone, with thanks.
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