FoodCycle Connects; the journey of surplus food

This week I followed the journey of our surplus food, from shop, to bike, to charity, to kitchen, to belly (to do it properly I made sure I ate some of the food as well).

I started my food journey with our regular Monday afternoon food collection, joined by a fantastic new volunteer Julie. It was a record Monday collection, two overflowing trailers and two full panniers between us. We collected an array of fruit and vegetables, over 40kg in total.

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Past their best perhaps, but edible and otherwise destined for the bin. From start to finish the collection took a couple. It was warm work in the  un-British sunshine (I helped myself to a cold cartoon of fruit juice, just one day past its best before date), but well worth it for the grateful reception we always receive from Borderlands, the recipient of our Monday collection.

“Borderlands Bristol works especially with people seeking asylum in the UK or have become a refugee from other countries; we support people who have been trafficked and trapped in domestic service or the sex industry.”

I was concerned Borderlands wouldn’t be able to make use of all the food, but they were thrilled to see it, as always. The only thing they didn’t need was bread, so we dropped some with a community of people living in tents on route back to our St Pauls trailer storage, and took a couple of loaves home ourselves. We actively encourage volunteers to take a share of the surplus home with them.

On Tuesday morning I joined a team of Borderlands volunteers in the Assisi Centre kitchen, all morning they provide language lessons, cups of tea, board games and general advice and support. I could really feel their tagline ‘from exclusion to belonging’ with friendships formed between asylum seekers/refuges and with volunteers.

Borderlands also receive surplus food from FareShare and Marks and Spencer. They organise their own transport volunteers to collect this, and the dried and chilled goods they often get from these sources complements the fresh fruit and veg we collect perfectly. The dedication the kitchen volunteers show in making use of everything in the kitchen really helped justify the time and effort we put in to collecting it. I questioned if it was worth chopping ALL of the fruit for the salad, ‘would it all get eaten?’, after seeing sad fruit salad end up in the bin far too often. I was assured it would.

Two volunteers are given the responsibility of planning and cooking the meal. They assess what has been donated, and then, to make a tasty and nutritious meal, they buy a few things to supplement, such as chicken, lentils and rice. There’s no point making use of kilograms of surplus food to cook a meal no one wants to eat!

We served a fantastic meal of chicken stew, Italian dahl, curried vegetables, sweetcorn fritters, bean burgers and a salad with beetroot and apple; followed by fruit salad and yogurt. Everything went down well, over 80 people sat down to eat together, with others filling away takeaway containers. And the kitchen volunteers were right, everything did get eaten.

Without the surplus fruit and vegetables we collect, Borderlands limited budget would need to stretch to cover the fruit and vegetables necessary to make a balanced meal, and they certainly can’t afford a fresh fruit salad containing all heaps of strawberries and grapes.

“Food cycle are a brilliant organisation who support us with weekly food donations. Each Monday they deliver the food donations right to our door and then each Tuesday we are able to feed 130 plus people with their generous donations. Without their support we wouldn’t have the financial resources to buy the amount of food they donate to us. We can provide fresh fruit and vegetables within our hot lunch each Tuesday to refugees and asylum seekers through their help.” – Neșe Davidson, Borderlands
Heather, FoodCycle Connects and Cooking Manager
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