As of 2016, there are now 24 FoodCycle hubs up and down the country. From Liverpool down to Bath, from Clacton across to Bristol, they’re all different. Some cook lunch at the weekends, others dish up dinner on a weekday evening. Some, like us, have been around for five or six years, while others, like FoodCycle Marylebone or our neighbours at FoodCycle Peterborough, are just setting out. FoodCycle hubs work with a diverse range of community partners, from churches, meeting houses and synagogues to housing associations, community groups and charities such as the Food Chain.
There’s one thing that all hubs have in common though.
We couldn’t achieve any of this without the best weapon FoodCycle has at its disposal in the fight against food waste and food poverty – our volunteers. According to the our second social impact report, last year an amazing 1200 people volunteered with FoodCycle, serving a whopping 38,871 community meals. Since FoodCycle started cooking, volunteers have donated 100,000 hours – and to us, that’s certainly something worth celebrating. We should be shouting it from the rooftops!
Here in Cambridge, we have a brilliant group of volunteers who have peeled, chopped and stirred their way to 8097 meals, not to mention helping us cater weddings and conferences, making us miles and miles of bunting, standing on the corner of Hills Road handing out daffodils to some very bemused passers by – even taking it in turns to mash soup when the blender broke! And all with a smile, if these pictures are anything to go by…
Over the next few weeks we’re going to be sharing guest blogs from some of our volunteers, which we hope will show you just what a great bunch they are. Who knows, maybe it’ll even inspire you to get involved!
Here then, without further ado, is a quick word from Geertje, one of our hub leaders. Geertje’s been volunteering with us for about two years – she regularly leads cooking sessions, is a fanatical rower for Queen’s College, and a member of the wine society. Favourite thing to cook – Dutch apple pies. Least favourite thing to cook – canapes.
“On my first visit to Cambridge I never expected to end up being involved with a beautiful charity like FoodCycle. I’m a researcher from the Netherlands, here studying for a PhD in biotechnology – my work focuses on profiling of schizophrenia, and investigating new drug treatments. Never, ever did I think that – two years later – I’d find myself in a kitchen chopping 20kg of tomatoes for a wedding, or doing a mercy dash to collect trays of broccoli from a local homelessness charity.
Hanna, the technician of my research group was already involved with FoodCycle and she invited me to a Christmas fundraiser – and I thought, why not? Once I learned more about what FoodCycle did, I immediately loved the concept and signed up so I could start joining the cooking sessions.
To me, cooking has always been a hobby, and cooking with FoodCycle is just a Masterchef style bonus – really, it’s just one big mystery box challenge (my favourite)! Of course, we’re not working with the finest ingredients, just your everyday unwanted, discarded veggies that we’re saving from landfill. Just because there’s a date written on them, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t still perfectly edible, with a dash of imagination and creativity. Knowing there are so many people – even here in Cambridge – struggling to have just one decent meal a day while here we are throwing away perfectly good, healthy food really is absurd. To me, FoodCycle is the perfect way of killing two birds with one stone, and a beautiful way of giving back to those who are in need – whether that’s because they’re experiencing food poverty or live alone and don’t generally get to sit down and eat with others.”