What a lovely start to the week, and for FoodCycle a new year of pop-up restaurants! On Monday 24th February, we hosted our first pop-up restaurant of the year, and had a really fabulous night – we hope you did as well.
As always, our inventive cooking team cooked up another three-course, healthy, veggie storm of culinary wonders! Armed with creativity and a whole load of surplus veg, our cooking managers Ellen and Nell, along with an army of eager veg-chopping volunteers, produced some gorgeous and interesting combinations. (I was particularly a fan of mango and cucumber salad, especially with a generous handful of fresh coriander!)
Starter – Spicy, fruity cucumber salad with garlic bread
Main – Italian vegetable stew with potato
Dessert – Banana bread with fruit syrup
During the courses, we enjoyed some wonderful fresh local talent from Josh Evans and Sarah RK, which set a relaxing mood for the evening.
Our main focus of the evening was on promoting the ongoing work of FoodCycle to overcome the disparity between food poverty and food waste, as well as social isolation. A FoodCycle Bristol veteran, Jon, came back to visit us and gave us a charismatic and engaging talk on why he set FoodCycle Bristol up and what we’re all about.
It’s (sadly) getting to the time of year when all our managers are starting to think about what they’re going to be doing next year. Some of us are leaving, some of us are staying, and to quote pop-up manager Lizzie, “… some of us can’t be bothered anymore or whatever…”
What that means for you guys is that soon we will be recruiting for positions of the manager team for the next academic year. At the pop-up restaurant, each team in turn explained their role and position within the FoodCycle matrix. The teams are:
Communications and Publicity
Co-ordination (Co-ordinator and Treasurer)
We all have very different, yet fulfilling and interesting roles, which utilise and develop different skills. If you are having a wonder about being a manager, why not try out volunteering and see how you like it? Or for more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would like to say a massive thank you to all our guests and of course our wonderful volunteers for making it such a great night!
We’re back in a month’s time for 24th March – see you then!
I’m not going to lie and say I found a week living under the breadline difficult, or that I was hungry at any point or suffered any cravings that I couldn’t afford to fulfil – not that I think going a week without anything would justify craving due to malnourishment anyway. That being said, I did find that I was swapping, for example, a lot of the protein in my regular diet for cheap carbohydrates such as white bread which resulted in me becoming irritable and lethargic. In the evenings, I cooked the meals I would generally cook any other week; however this took careful planning and meant that I had to be a lot less liberal with the spice rack and the variety of ingredients in each meal, particularly rationing the selection of fresh vegetables. I would say that the majority of my weekly spend on food goes on a wide selection of fresh vegetables so this was what I was most worried about missing, although a delivery of a vegetable selection box from a local farm (approx. £5 pppw) was adequate. Additionally, I have to say that the money that I spent on food for the week came from a budget that three of us doing the challenge had put together. This allowed for much more variety than I would have been able to achieve had I been doing this alone, I can imagine for people living alone and on this kind of weekly budget it is probably not economical to cook a wide selection of meals from fresh ingredients however cheap it appears when meticulously costed. There are definitely ways to eat well cheaply, local businesses tend to be considerably cheaper than supermarkets for a start, although it is a case of seeking these out which people may often not have the time for. The main difficulty with this budget is that, though manageable, it requires a large amount of organisation and means going without the small luxuries to which one can become accustomed without even realising they are luxuries. Going a week without endless cups of tea, sitting out of a meal for a friend’s birthday and not being able to pay entry to clubs or drink in the pub at the weekend was not the most difficult thing to do. Had you asked me what I thought after a month, or even two weeks, on this budget I would probably have a very different view.
Aside from the things the £18 a week budget caused us to “go without”, my concern is not that people are going hungry, but that poor nourishment is a much greater problem as it is detrimental to both physical and mental well-being. I’m not saying that a well-balanced diet is not achievable with this budget and that everyone living on it eats badly (or that people with more money eat much better) but I can imagine it gets increasingly more difficult and requires a lot more thought, creativity and time. Particularly with obesity being a national problem this is something that should be considered.
My week ended at the FoodCycle community kitchen. I really came to look forward to it and received the three course meal with a whole new sense of appreciation. We were served a pear salad with garlic bread for the starter, a really tasty and very nutritious beany vegetable stew followed by a chocolaty banana pudding; I would like to take the opportunity here to say well done and thank you to everyone who was volunteering and managing today, I’ve definitely been filled up for the rest of the evening and it was delicious! While it is appalling to think that all this food is supposedly “waste” (and this is from just a few tiny shops in one city) its amazing that it can be put to good use. It makes you think though…. If just some of this food could be dished out to those who need it direct from the shops every week or even every day rather than going straight into the skip, just think about how that £18 a week could be spent differently. Despite all the controversy surrounding this challenge, and it must be noted that none of us believe we have truly experienced what it is like to live below the breadline after just one week, but I am really proud that as a team we have managed to raise so much to support all that FoodCycle is doing so a massive thank you to everyone who has donated.
Despite where the figure is sourced ‘here’, living on £18 for a week was never meant to be and could never be any insight into the lives of those that have to live on this figure or less every week for the foreseeable future. With 13,500,000 people living below the poverty line in the UK and Trusell Trust Foodbanks providing emergency food to 170% more people in 2013 than in 2012, the distribution of food within the UK is an issue of increasing importance.
This issue is exasperated by the fact that every year in Britain an estimated 15 million tonnes of food is wasted from the farm to the plate. There is a multitude of reasons why this figure is so high ranging from the cosmetic standards both consumers and supermarkets place on their food, to sell by dates, to the aggressive ‘only supply to me’ tactic that supermarkets employ on their suppliers. All this is contributing to high and rising food prices and the rising numbers of people that are coming to rely on Foodbanks.
All this waste does have one benefit. Anyone that wants to help themselves to some perfectly edible food should have a rummage in their local supermarket bin. Here you will find anything from, gluten free bread, to day old pastry items, to ready meals, to dairy free yoghurts and anything else for that matter that you would find in your local supermarket…half of it ends up in the bin. Of course it is worth using your judgement as to which food is good for the eating, some (but in general not the majority) will be inedible. But of course this is not a viable option for everyone. Not everyone has time to go snoopin’ around their local bins.
So what did I experience from reducing my food budget for a week? Well I got some tasty poppy seed bread from the local bins…that lasted a week! I realised that it was a pain to not be able to eat when I was hungry and that snacking was out of the question (except for the 12packs of crisps I found in the ‘bin’). I realised how lucky I was to live on a road with independent food shops such as Scoop Away that sell quality healthy items in bulk – great for spices too as you don’t have to buy too much. I realised that supermarkets were convenient but taunting with all their just out of reach tasty treats of which many would one day end up in that bin outside. And I realised that it’s much easier to get more variety for your money when you can come together with others and cook meals.
As I saw it I had 3 options. 1. Meticulously plan a budget for simple but different meals every day 2. Do a budget supermarket shop or 3. Cook in bulk for multiple days. I went for option 3 and had nutritious but eventually monotonous meals for the week. From Monday through Friday I have had: Yogurt, granola and a homemade apple compote for breakfast, Dhal with spinach and sweet potato for lunch and 7 bean chilli with either rice or jacket potato for dinner. As I’m writing this I have just run out of food with £6 left and have not a clue what I am going to do for lunch and dinner today (it’s 00:24 Fri morning as I’m writing). The foods done the trick but I have genuinely felt hungry every day.
We are doing this for such a short time and it is in no way a reality for any of us. For those for which this is a reality I can only imagine that the situation must be indescribable. FoodCycle can provide a life line to anyone that is in need. Every Sunday we serve up a 3 course dinner made up of entirely food that would of otherwise been wasted. This is sourced from the local community and emphasis is placed on building community spirit and coming together around food to prevent food waste.
It’s Friday, day 5 of our Breadline Challenge, and I’m beginning to reflect on the week.
As Hattie so articulately stated in her blog yesterday, (check it out here) one of the major things we have to keep remembering this week is that we’re not in this for real. For us, this isn’t life, and we can’t even begin to imagine how living in poverty must actually feel. The challenge has brought home to me just how far from poverty I am in my nice little student world. I generally consider myself pretty thrifty, and I don’t spend very much – but that’s not the point. I am never in a situation where I would genuinely go hungry, and I’m often pinching the pennies to keep money in my ‘post-university savings’ or to put towards going out for a nice meal at the end of the week. If I go slightly over budget, it’s not a matter of life and death.
I definitely approached this week with my middle-class, left-wing, idealistic, foodie head on. I was determined to continue to cook nutritious, interesting food, and not to resort to buying cheap meat or shopping in a way that I deemed ‘unethical’. I decided to make my own bread rather than buy a few cheap sliced loaves, and I spent about £7 on fresh fruit and veg. Cooking and food are one of my passions, and I didn’t want to lose out on the enjoyment I get from creating healthy, fun meals.
Retrospectively,I’ve realised that this was a pretty naive attitude. People who are really in food poverty need to eat to survive. It’s no good having fun cooking a great nutritionally balanced meal if you’ve had to cut down the quantities because you’re on a budget, and so still feel hungry afterwards. Having the option to choose to buy food because it’s locally or sustainably sourced rather than just because it’s cheap is definitely a privilege. And you can’t be snobby about sliced bread. Anyway, here’s my little homemade loaf:
— Homemade Loaf
The fact that so many people are now living in food poverty in the UK is astounding. It’s mad that in our developed country there are people struggling to eat. And it’s getting worse. If you want some good, solid statistics, check out this report on food poverty in Bristol from the city council here. FoodCycle is trying to help. Each week we cook up a hot meal in a community center in a deprived area of Bristol, using surplus food that would otherwise have been wasted.
This week has given us a tiny inkling of the way it must feel to have to rely on charities and food banks to survive, and it’s emphasised just how important the food we cook on a Sunday must be to some of those who come to eat. Please donate to FoodCycle here, so that we can keep up the fight against food poverty and food waste.
As you’re hopefully aware by now, a group of us are doing the ‘breadline challenge’.
So here’s the thing. I started off the week by moaning about a headache through lack of coffee, and complaining of a grumbling stomach, not being able to have a snack before the next meal.
But then I read this – Jack Monroe’s letter to Edwina Currie about in which describes just some of her experiences of living in food poverty.
You really must read it. It puts it all in perspective. We’re doing this as a ‘challenge’ – and it’s just that: ‘a challenge’. It comes with a sense of camaraderie, sharing experiences, hints and tips, recipes. ‘We’re all in it together’. For a week. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. And the tunnel is really really short. For others this is a relentless reality. Our breadline challenge gives us a mere glimpse into living in food poverty – the idea of the choices and decisions that we have to make, constantly thinking about food and money, hearing the grumble of our stomachs, feelings of social isolation, having to constantly ask yourself whether you can buy something, whether buying this one thing will mean you won’t have any food left in the cupboards at the end of the week.
There’s many things I can’t begin to imagine – having a family to look after for one. Whilst I can go a week skipping breakfast, what would I do if I had a child/children to support too? How would I feel if I feel constantly being on the precipice of tipping over the edge into literally having no more food in the cupboards? I genuinely couldn’t answer this question.
After reading Jack’s piece I thought I should really shut up with my moaning. I’ve got it damn easy. But what I shouldn’t shut up about is encouraging people to support FoodCycle. Do it. Now. Here. This after all is the main point of our ‘challenge’. We need to raise funds so that we can continue to provide meals to help those that are struggling right now in the UK, providing them with a great meal, great community and something to look forward to each week.
People say ‘it’s just one meal’ can that really help? Well yes. It can be incredibly helpful. Can you imagine a continual struggle to feed yourself and your family? Anyone can find themselves in food poverty and in that situation everyone would like the opportunity to have a decent, hot, three course meal, in a safe, warm, friendly environment. There’s a meal right there, that you don’t have to worry about, that you know will be there. Please sponsor us so we can continue to provide these meals. You can donate Here. Thank you so much for all of your donations, we really appreciate your support.
Its day three of the breadline challenge, I am definitely experiencing lower energy levels than normal. My porridge breakfast didn’t seem quite so satisfying today and I am very much looking forward to Lunch!
I live in a house with two other girls and generally we share our meals when we can, treating meal times as a chance to relax and catch up with each other. We also share a ‘food necessities’ monthly shop which provides the cupboards with basic items such as tinned tomatoes, rice, flour and dried beans, salt and pepper etc… Daily meals use a combination of fresh produce bought from the local shops in St Pauls, or further afield (depending on our schedules), and food that we already have in the kitchen. We eat on a budget, with a few treats here and there.
I hoped The Breadline challenge wouldn’t be too tricky, I would just have to sacrifice things like butter, fish, meat, nuts and eating out. With this in mind I did a personal food shop on the way to work on Monday, including items such as pasta, eggs & potatoes. It came to around 10 pounds; hopefully I would only eat part of some of the items during the week. The rest of the week’s quota would be covered by items already in the cupboards and used to contribute to meals with the girls. This in theory seemed like the best way for me to complete the challenge.
So far I have eaten well on Monday and Tuesday, and when I totted up the costing’s for each meal I was slightly under budget for my daily quota.
However, I have noticed that the carefree attitude I normally have with eating and cooking has somewhat decapitated. One of my house mates cooked a delicious potato curry last night, with ingredients from the local shops; normally I would reciprocate with a meal later in the week. Yet I had to painstakingly analyse the cost of the ingredients and then work out how much of it I had eaten in order to meet the requirements of the challenge. I really hated doing this as it somewhat takes away the generosity of the meal, reducing it to figures and calorie intake.
Another problem I can foresee will be social frustration over the weekend. I would ideally like to go out to a ticketed night on Friday after work where I would also like to buy drinks, however with minimal money left from my food quota; this will probably not be possible. Again on Saturday I would like to meet a friend for lunch, this will probably not be possible. I enjoy exercising also, ideally I would have gone swimming this week or over the weekend, but the Easton Swimming pool packs a punch at around £3.90 per swim… not really possible.
My lunch was really yummy in the end; it beat the savoury cravings for now! I really enjoy scrambled eggs on rye bread it is something I eat quite often, today is no exception. A slightly expensive option, at 55p per portion, but it keeps you full for hours, the vegetarian meal has a high fibre and protein content and with the added spinach my iron levels should be looking not too shabby.
Tonight I will be at work; I will have to take a packed dinner with me, I am lucky enough to be able to take some leftovers from last night’s meal.
I am looking forward to cooking later in the week, perhaps a vegetable & pearl barley stew with home-made dumplings is on the horizon, I will be sure to keep you posted!
Please read this informative article, it explains the difficulties and the painful reality of eating on an almost non-existent budget.
A great program ‘James Martin, Angela Hartnett and Richard Corrigan live with three households where people are finding it hard to make ends meet. Recent research estimates that nearly five million people in the UK are struggling to feed themselves properly and eat nutritiously.’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b036x3pv
Below is a link to how the £18 breadline figure was worked out
By Kelvin Cheung, founder & CEO of FoodCycle
*This figure is from Helen Goodman MP: “£18 is based on the experiences of my constituents, in particular women on employment and support allowance who have had to stop working owing to chronic health conditions, perhaps after 20 years of working life. Out of their £71.70, they have to find £10 for electricity, £20 for heating — gas or coal —£6 for water rates, £4 for bus fares and £10 for the bedroom tax, which left them with £23 for weekly living expenses.
That £23 has to cover more than food, of course. We did a calculation, and set aside £5 for all the non-food items everyone has to buy—soap, washing powder, washing-up liquid, toothpaste, loo paper—plus a small amount in order to save £50 a year for clothes or a pair of trainers, or in case the iron breaks. That leaves £18.” You can read Helen’s full article here.
Having meticulously planned out my meals for the week in a spreadsheet, calculated the cost of each ingredient and been budget food shopping, I was feeling pretty positive about this week – but after just one day, there’s been significant things that I definitely wasn’t expecting.
The first thing was how genuinely hungry I felt yesterday. I had believed that I could get by on a very low food budget to save away a few pounds to go to a friend’s birthday party at the end of the week, so had planned to spend the absolute minimum. This has meant planning very cheap meals and not including many snacks, which I had thought would be fine, but after just one day I have realised that I will have to include more food than I had planned for.
Secondly, I have noticed the social difficulties. Having planned to meet a friend for lunch on Monday, I had to contact her to invite her over for a cup of tea instead. As I live very centrally, this wasn’t really an issue for me, but I am aware that for many people in this financial situation, this is just not an option. Another friend invited me out for a birthday dinner on Thursday night, an invitation which I had to decline as it would have taken a huge chunk out of my weekly budget – I was concerned that I gave the impression I just didn’t want to go, which of course I did, it just wasn’t a viable financial option.
Also – the repetitiveness of the meals! I managed to minimise my spend on food by having quite a small variation in the things that I am eating – even after one day, eating lentil bake after having carrot and lentil soup for lunch was very difficult to get excited about.
Finally, the recipe for my dinner tonight – pea risotto, adapted from a Nigella recipe although unfortunately without the parmesan cheese and white wine…
Ingredients (for 2 meals):
1tbsp olive oil 6p
200g risotto rice 44p
150g frozen peas 18p
1 white onion 15p
1 clove garlic 4p
1 litre vegetable stock (made with one stock cube) 1p
1. Chop the onion and garlic clove. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry till soft.
2. Add the rice to the pan and stir, before covering with a little of the vegetable stock. Keep stirring and adding more stock as the rice absorbs the moisture.
3. Cook half of the peas in the microwave for around 2 and a half minutes. Remove from the microwave, add 2 tbsp of stock and blend to a puree.
4. Once the rice has cooked, stir in the remaining frozen peas and cook till heated through.
5. Add the pea puree and stir until totally combined.
DAY 1 OF THE BREADLINE CHALLENGE….. Although I knew it this week would be difficult, the reality of living on such a tight budget only hit me this morning when I realised that snacking when I felt the first belly rumble was no longer feasible. Timetabling your food consumption on money rather than hunger was an odd feeling, even the smallest of treats had to be calculated into pennies and subtracted from the weekly expenses. Luckily I live with two other foodcyclers Lizzie Van Zyl and Jane O’Brien, so we pooled our money in order to buy in bulk and make bigger meals, our friend runs a vegetable box delivery company and he gave us a 10 pound box at the beginning of the week which will hopefully cover most of our dinners. It struck me how difficult it would be for single people as we managed to get a fair amount, specifically in the variety of food. I really noticed this in the difference between my lunch and breakfast (budgeted just by me) which was very plain and basic to our shared dinner which we all contributed a little to create a delicious stir fry.
We went to the bins outside a large supermarket near my house last night and got a massive amount of bread, grapes, spinach, potatoes and even some soya yoghurt! This challenge was to raise awareness for those in food poverty and the injustice of the massive amount of food wasted, something which was so clear when I saw how much food supermarkets leave and how many people could benefit from that being distriubted as a state organisation. Foodcycle does great work in establishing connections with these supermarkets to ensure that some of their otherwise wasted food goes to those who truly needs it, hopefully the attention that the breadline budget is getting will the people how pressing it is to understand the ridiculousness of the current food waste system and how charities like Foodcycle need all the support they can get! Good luck to everyone else, Nell Benney cooking manage