A visit to FoodCycle Marylebone…

Being naturally curious AND being in London last Wednesday, I thought I’d pay a visit to one of the 10 local hubs.  Over the past few years I’ve visited a few different hubs (Norwich, Bristol, LSE).  I reckon it’s the best way to understand what FoodCycle is about, seeing people sitting down to a meal together, and I always come away re-energised and full of ideas to take back to Cambridge.

FoodCycle Marylebone are one of the newest hubs, cooking every other Wednesday evening, and I was lucky enough to be there for their first dinner…

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The hub is the product of a fantastic interfaith partnership between St Paul’s Church and West London Synagogue, reaching out to local residents of the Lisson Green Estate, one of the most deprived areas within Westminster.  All the food is cooked at the synagogue and then transported to St Paul’s 10 minutes away.

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As I waited at the church for the other volunteers to arrive, I was looking around and spotted this panel in one of the stained glass windows, which seemed to fit perfectly with the FoodCycle message.  Huge thanks go to both venues for their generosity in allowing FC Marylebone into their space, and for being so supportive – the congregation on Rossmore Road even acted as willing ‘guinea pigs’ for the first couple of practice runs.  That willingness to welcome in strangers is (to me, at least) where the real strength of faith communities lies – it’s certainly something we’ve experienced at our own St Paul’s here in Cambridge and, more recently at Our Lady and the English Martyrs and Barnwell Baptist Church.

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Food donations for the meal (including the largest amount of blueberries I have ever seen since I started volunteering with FoodCycle) came from shops and organisations including the Edgware Road branch of Waitrose and As Nature Intended, a local organic grocery store – as well as City Harvest, who redistribute food waste across the capital.  I’d never heard of City Harvest before, and I’ll definitely be doing a bit more research on them – this sounds like exactly the kind of thing we need in Cambridge.

The team of volunteers, led by Alex Cameron, came up with a delicious menu – a crunchy and refreshing salad to start, followed by a hearty vegetarian shepherds pie and, to finish, a blueberry and apple crumble.  I’ve been cooking with FoodCycle for a while now, but I’m still impressed when I see (and, of course, eat) the amazing meals that their teams of volunteers can conjure out of what is seen as ‘waste’.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to sit among such a great group of people, listening to the gentle hum of conversations on topics as diverse as tree surgery, the merits of cabbage, dockside regeneration in Liverpool, how to climb the employment ladder in France, winter coats and the best way to stew apples (star anise is the secret, according to Caroline). Good, healthy food that reduces waste is certainly an important part of FoodCycle’s mission, but it’s this sense of community that keeps people coming back (and I include myself here). We have people who’ve been coming to meals in Cambridge for several years now, and they all tell us that they might come for the food – but they stay for the company.

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Well done to all the volunteers involved in making this happen – great evening, great meal and great atmosphere.  As I headed back to Cambridge with my bag, pockets and even the hood of my coat stuffed full of punnets of blueberries, I was already planning to come back for the next meal.

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FoodCycle Marylebone’s next meal is on the 13th April from 6.30 – do come and join them, and spread the word! To find out more about how you can get involved in the hub, visit their web page here or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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