So. Many. Bananas.

Last Saturday marked the start of the 2016 Eat Cambridge festival, with an all-day ‘main event’ at the Corn Exchange.  We’ve not been along before, and it’s safe to say that food waste perhaps isn’t at the forefront of a lot of festival goers’ minds.  It’s a great event though, always well attended and coordinated with remarkable efficiency by last year’s Cambridge Evening News Food Hero, Heidi White, together with her team of volunteers.

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When Heidi emailed us last year, asking if we’d consider giving a talk on the day and having a stall – brilliant, we thought, a captive audience! What better opportunity to let people know what we do, and introduce a bit of a food waste message to the festival?  Of course, this presented us with a challenge – what were we actually going to do for this stall? It was always going to be a bit different from the other stalls there, which are mainly high-end local sellers and producers, although other charities have been represented in the past, such as Cambridge Sustainable Food, who were there again this year – right next door to us, in fact! How were we going to make our stall stand out?

And then the answer came to us.  Bananas.

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With our bendy yellow friends still being wasted at an frankly frightening rate (1.4 million every day, at the last count), focusing on bananas seemed a great way to get our message across and encourage people to think twice before binning them.  So we started to make plans for a stall that would showcase as many different banana recipes as possible, sweet and savoury.  We all love a bit of banana cake (in fact, it’s almost an entry requirement for FoodCycle volunteers) – but the savoury recipes? Well, they were going to be a real challenge.  Luckily, here at FoodCycle Cambridge, we love a challenge. Especially a banana-related one.

So, along with the surplus for our regular Wednesday dinner that week, we collected an extra sack of bananas and stored them at Barnwell ready for a mass cook on Friday evening*. 20 recipes, 97 bananas and 6 hours later, we were ready (if a little woozy from the banana fumes).

Honestly, we couldn’t have predicted such an enthusiastic response from the hundreds of festival goers. For six hours, we chatted to people about what we do – some people had never heard of us before, others knew friends who’d been to one of our meals, or had volunteered with us, and were curious to learn more.  We handed out our banana-flavoured samples to passers-by, with everything disappearing faster than we could refill the plates.  If we had a banana for every time someone asked ‘The curry’s made out of WHAT?!’ then… well, we’d have even more bananas.

Geertje and Alex also gave one of the afternoon’s expert talks about food waste in Cambridge, and what we can do to tackle the issue – a really great audience with some challenging questions, and even a suggestion to take lorryloads of bananas and dump them in Parliament Square!

We might be ‘off’ bananas for a while, but it was a really fantastic day and certainly helped get the word out there about FoodCycle.  We even donned banana suits to sign up a few new volunteers, and we’re already looking forward to Eat Cambridge 2017.  Next time though, we’ll make more vegan muffins!

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To get our recipe for banana and courgette fritters, part of our new recipe of the month feature, click here.

*apologies to anyone who voted at the Barnwell Church polling station on the Thursday of that week and thought it smelled a bit banana-y!

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