A whole loada FoodCycle fun at our first Student Restaurant of the year!

Last night was the first Student Restaurant of the year. And what an incredible night of scum-diddily-umptious culinary delights, some sweet sweet jazz, inspiring talks, organised chaotic running around and fun!

As we started setting up at 4:30pm already the kitchen were in full swing. Piles of vibrant fruit and veg covered every surface, the air was fragrant with the aroma of sautéed onion and an army of super salad choppers were busy at work. Meanwhile in the Coexist venue, we were setting out tables, enjoying some reggae tunes and using our inventiveness and resourcefulness to figure out how exactly to hang up artwork with minimal wall space and almost no screws…

After a few near stresses of not-enough-seating-oh-no-where-are-the-band-and-what’s-the-deal-with-the-guest-list, at 7pm the first of our guests began to arrive and suddenly everything ran smoothly like a well-oiled machine. No doubt the multiple cans of Country Cider helped with team morale 😉

Creating and improvising from the surplus food given to us by supermarkets and shops, on the menu last night was:

Starter – cucumber, pomegranate and mint salad

Main – Aloo Gobi surprise, lentil dhal, grape & onion chutney, raika and fried okrah

Dessert – Shortbread & fruit compote

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The food was divine and very well received by both our guests and all the FoodCycle team! We managed to use up all of the food given to us which is great. No good food should be wasted.

Our music last night was provided by the super cool Reggae Soc and a quintet of musicians from BUJO (Bristol University Jazz Orchestra). As I was rushing in and out of the room with plates of steaming curry and Christmas smelling fruit compote, I very much enjoyed the snippets of music I got to sample!

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Last night wouldn’t have been complete without our co-hosts BVDA (Bristol Volunteers for Development Abroad), who not only gave an inspiring talk on their efforts to alleviate poverty in the developing world but were super helpful in both setting and clearing up. Thanks guys!

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I would like to say on behalf of the FoodCycle team, a HUGE thank you to our volunteers! Without you guys, it just wouldn’t happen 🙂

Hope you enjoyed yourselves as much as I did. See you next time!

Danielle Jackson

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First steps towards our community garden!

On a wet October Sunday, a bunch of green fingered friends gathered to kick start FoodCycle Bristol’s new community project: the Easton Community Centre garden. The group was made up of a mixture of FoodCycle managers, volunteers and our community partner Matt from the Avon Wildlife Trust.

DSCN3843Before we started, the garden was disguised by a knotty, tangled mess of brambles and bracken which had grown absolutely wild. As a disused and wasted space, the garden was heavily littered with bottles, cans, some slightly less desirable items and some random pieces of junk including shoes, boots, a car radio, a lamp and a head lamp. Our mega litter pick resulted in about 15 bags of assorted recycling and rubbish! GROSS!

After the site had been de-littered, our attention turned to a session of extreme pruning. We cut back piles and piles of bracken and weeds which we placed over the fence to rot down over the winter. With the expert advice of a local tree surgeon, a few rogue trees were pruned back to a less imposing size.

Still the rain continuously and relentlessly poured down, soaking everyone through to the skin. Literally, pants and everything. Despite our discomfort, we laughed our way through 3 hours of wetness, worked like a well-oiled machine and achieved a huge amount too.

Once the wilderness had been tamed, a very sizeable garden was revealed with raised beds, a pond, fruit trees and other plants. Matt (Avon Wildlife Trust), who has several projects in the Easton/ Lawrence Hill area, and the community team have big plans for the garden. They would like to plant spring bulbs, create a wildlife habitat near the pond, have a proper compost bin (rather than just a heap) and grow wild herbs to use in the Sunday community kitchen.

Slightly bedraggled looking, we retired to the community kitchen for some well-earned food. The kitchen was really busy with loads of people enjoying the scummy menu of Italian potatoes & salad, Saag Aloo and Apple Surprise. Thanks cooking team! 🙂

We’re only at the start of our project but already the garden looks so much better, and it is really easy to see the potential.

Continue to keep updated with the progress of our community garden, and if you’re feeling green fingered and would like to be involved, do contact us or keep an eye on our rotas.

Danielle Jackson

The Sustainable Food Cities Network – why food is such a problem


Originally published on Bristol Green Capital Blog – 19th September 2013 http://bristolgreencapital.org/latest/2013/09/the-sustainable-food-cities-network-why-food-is-such-a-problem/

SustainableFoodCity_LogoThe Sustainable Food Cities Network has been created to use food to address social, economic and environmental issues. Looking at why making food production and consumption sustainable is an essential part of food solution. Bristol is now part of this nationwide network. 

I’m sitting in my parent’s kitchen in Somerset. My Mum is chopping up mushrooms, whilst a plate of four sizeable salmon fillets sit next to me. There’s a flan blind baking in the oven, fresh spinach wilting in a pan of softened onions, whilst a pile of Cornish new potatoes perch next to the cooker.

Having been so absorbed in my reading, I was totally oblivious of what was happening around me. I just sighed and said to my Mum that the more I read the more I despair. I’m researching food poverty. As I glanced up, I looked at the scene just described and am stung by the juxtaposition between my parent’s kitchen and what I’ve just read.

I feel grateful but a bit empty and perhaps a bit ashamed as well. Maybe I take things for granted too much. Okay, as a student I am familiar with an empty fridge, but restocking my shelves is not a financial burden, just requires the effort of lugging a heavy bag for twenty minutes. Really, I have no idea.

According the World Bank, since 2008 we have been faced by a global food crisis. As a consequence of the 43% rise in food prices from 2000-2011, many people have been unable to afford nutritious food causing significant social and health problems.

Food, a lack of quality and quantity, is responsible for a deteriorating quality of life. On average in Bristol, 51% of residents eat five more portions of fruit and vegetable per day, however this drops to as low as 39% in the deprived ward of Lawrence Hill (Bristol Quality of Life Survey, 2012). Obesity is a prolific problem in Bristol with 50% of residents stating that they are overweight or obese. Once again, this figure increases for deprived wards.

Food poverty is a series social issue in Bristol, and indeed across the UK. In fact a recent Guardian article reported that in the last six months, there has been a 78% increase in Food Bank enquiries as more families are unable to support themselves. Despite this increased demand for food resources and the above statistics, food poverty is fiercely debated.

Controversially, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver remarked that he cannot come to terms with ‘modern-day poverty’ as many people claiming to be unable to afford healthy food are able to buy expensive electrical items. His comments have provoked much criticism due to his millionaire status. Regardless of how people spend their money, with increasing food prices and widespread unemployment, many people are struggling to access healthy and affordable food.

The Sustainable Food Cities Network is a nationwide initiative of public, private and third sector organisations led by the Soil Association, Food Matters and Sustain. It is hoped that eventually every school, hospital, restaurant and workplace will serve only healthy and sustainable meals. Also they hope that everybody will have access to affordable and healthy food, sourced locally and sustainably.

In Bristol, the network is working with the already established Bristol Food Policy Council, a partnership of community, public and private organisations. Their mission is to tackle food poverty and food waste by prioritising sustainable supply chains, public sector food and access. Their work is centred on promoting the message and ideals of sustainable food via events and awards.

At Food Cycle, we share the same concerns as the Sustainable Cities Food Network and endeavour to help overcome some of the problems associated with food. We run a weekly community kitchen in Easton which provides a free three course meal for anyone but especially for those at risk of food poverty. The food we source for this meal is waste food from shops and supermarkets which is perfectly edible but unable to be sold due to strict regulations regarding sell by dates. We also have a community outreach team who work actively in the community to raise awareness of food waste and food poverty. 

Danielle Jackson

Follow me on twitter: @d_m_jackson