After a good old natter through Twitter and email with the lovely Jen at FoodCycle in Cambridge, I was intrigued and amazed by this organisation and the fantastic service it offers our own community, that I couldn't leap high enough when I was asked if I fancied joining the kitchen to help prepare a 3 course meal a couple of Saturday's ago.
FoodCycle is a project that is trying to tackle 3 things: Wasted Food, Food Poverty and Volunteering.
It's said that there is an estimated 400,000 tons of surplus food that can be reclaimed every year from the food and retail industry, which can be turned into a healthy meal. What did scare us was the fact that certain supermarkets cover their surplus food in blue dye so that it cannot be reclaimed. I cannot imagine how much food there is wasted with just that one company and I never thought I would feel so passionately about NOT using them as a customer, but I certainly have changed my mind slightly. I can see in one way that they are more than likely scared to be sued if somebody ate out of date food and then took legal action and I am guessing this is one of the main reasons, but still, this food could make a difference in certain areas that seem to be ignored by most and it has made me slightly angry.
The scary figure that FoodCycle mention in regards to people affected by food poverty in the UK alone is 4 million, and malnutrition is a huge problem, not only for the people affected, but this costs the NHS an estimated £13 billion every year. Which is why FoodCycle offer a passionate vegetarian service, ensuring that they help in some way, no matter how.
The situation is crap on several fronts at the moment and the team at FoodCycle are trying to do something about it. I didn't honestly feel as though I did much and I actually came away feeling a little guilty that I had enjoyed myself so much, as I helped my team for the morning dream and cook up a delicious 3 course vegetarian meal for the beneficieries for that day.
The food had come from several local food suppliers, supermarkets and outlets that regularly donate their food at the end of the week and we got to work at 9.30am ready to serve at 12.30pm.
There were 7 of us cooking on this particular day at St. Pauls Church Kitchen on Hills Road in Cambridge, including 2 of my fellow Cambridge Food Bloggers, Ivana at Miss Igs and Jo at Afternoon Tease. It was great to put faces to the names and finally get to meet and chat about food whilst doing what we are all so passionate about.
Jen had come up with the main dishes she wanted to make and we all adapted them as we fancied, leaving Jen to feel like a spare part and give her a well deserved break for a change. That was a nice feeling being able to do this, as she and her regular team work so well to do this week after week.
The menu consisted of a Carrot and Vegetable Soup for starters of which myself, Mister Flay and the lovely Berta were in charge of, talking about all things German as our co-chef was from a completely different part of the world, we had great fun getting to know each other as we chopped and boiled away in huge quantities.
Between the team, we also cooked a Vegetable Crumble with Cheese & Creamy Leeks as well as a gorgeous warm Banana & Caramel Upside Down cake or a Fresh Fruit Salad for dessert.
We were given the opportunity to chat as a group and learnt a lot in between courses and timing the food around each other, and we learnt a lot about the beneficiaries and how this weekly meal helps them. As well as being given the opportunity to sit and eat each course at the table and chat to the lovely guests there for lunch.
My youngest and most bossy customer was the cutest 8 year old lad who told me exactly what pieces of fruit he wanted in his fruit salad and wasn't happy until I made sure he got all the cherries and none of the orange slices. Hehe.
Once we had cooked and served every course, a second team arrived to help clear away and wash the dishes afterward, giving the chefs a chance to finish their own meal or head off. It's very well organised and relies on volunteers to help with each aspect of this service.
We really enjoyed ourselves, and as a result, have signed up to volunteer again shortly.
You can do so too, just take a visit and check out your nearest FoodCycle Hub, or even try visiting one of their Community Cafes, which they are currently trying out in London.
Miss Sue Flay