FoodCycle Lewisham is one of the newer hubs, set up as a partnership with Rushey Green Time Bank. Since they opened in May 2016, they’ve already served an amazing 712 meals, dishing up Saturday lunches at the Calabash Centre on George Lane. We visited a couple of months ago to take them some olive oil, and it was lovely to sit down and chat to some of their guests – not to mention tucking into some delicious food. They’re a really friendly bunch, so if you’re local you should pop in for lunch or sign up to volunteer!
One of their hub leaders, Beckie Wingrove (who coordinates their PR, marketing and communications) is also doing the Breadline Challenge and has very kindly written a guest blog for us. That’s her in the bottom right hand picture, wearing one of our fetching turquoise hub leader t shirts.
Over to you, Beckie…
You are what you eat…
Now, this may be a saying that is a tad over-used, but essentially – it’s true. And most importantly, what we eat not only affects our body shape, it heavily affect our mood.
Food poverty – which is defined as the inability to afford or access healthy food – not only restricts low-income groups with regards to lack of sustenance, it can also heavily affect one’s mental state, putting people at a higher risk for depression.
Food makes me happy. Sourcing it, cooking it, eating it – alongside family and friends – is most definitely very near the top of my favourite things to do. For those less fortunate, the pleasure of enjoying a simple meal is a luxury both physically and psychologically that I admittedly take for granted. It’s also safe to say that for those affected by food poverty, the lack of a decent meal is not the sole concern, with other financial and social pressures affecting how day to day priorities are juggled.
Along with sticking to the £2.50 a day budget set by FoodCycle for the Breadline Challenge, I also set myself the following challenges to ensure my diet was varied, healthy and nutritious – and left me upbeat and excited for my next meal!
- Aside from breakfasts, not to repeat the same meal for lunch/dinners more than twice. After all, keeping costs low would be a lot easier if I were to make a large bulk meal and eat that for all of my lunches and dinners for a week. However, I feel strongly that to ensure that mealtimes are still enjoyable and not only seen as a time to refuel, variety is required not only to ensure you’re getting a range of nutrients, but to keep you upbeat and engaged with your diet.
- Aim to eat a nutritious, balanced diet based on recommended daily values, as well as the NHS’ EatWell guideline of 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. Education on nutrition is essential, as research shows socially-disadvantaged households likely to be affected by food poverty consume less nutritionally-balanced diets and suffer from higher rates of diet-related chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and certain cancers at a younger age.
So, how’s it going for me so far? Here’s what I’ve learned:
- Planning – To stick to £2.50 a day for all 3 meals, the secret is most definitely in the planning. In total, I must have spent nearly two hours planning the week’s meals, researching how I could make the most out of a relatively limited collection of ingredients. For those affected by food poverty, I appreciate that this amount of planning time may not be feasible alongside everyday life (as well as a potential lack of knowledge/confidence). I found the internet a great source of inspiration for low-cost meals, and enjoyed following @onepoundmeals on Instagram for cheap meal ideas.
- Shop Around – the ability to shop around could be a challenge for many affected by food poverty, depending on where you live. Trips to the cheapest supermarket are limited by car ownership or poor provision of public transport, with people on lower incomes generally shopping locally (and more regularly) at small retailers that offer a limited range of foods and fewer fresh fruits and vegetables. I used the price comparison website mysupermarket.com to assess which supermarket had the lowest prices/offers – and ended up doing my week’s shop at 2 supermarkets: Morrisons and Lidl, which luckily for me were both local.
- Grow your Own – Herbs add bucketloads of flavour, yet are relatively expensive when buying freshly cut and often end up going to waste. I have had a herb garden for nearly 2 years now which I’ve kept alive at zero cost (except for watering) – seeds can be picked up at very low cost and it’s a great family activity for those with young children.
- Flavour – To ensure your food still packs a punch, ensure that you choose a small number of foods that deliver strongly on flavour, double up as seasoning and require relatively small amounts per meal. I opted for chorizo (smoky and packed full of spicy flavour, as well as full of fantastic oil when cooking), feta cheese (great for a salty, tangy flavour), sun dried tomatoes (a nice punch of tomato flavour, plus you can use the flavoured oil for cooking) and fresh chilies (for that spicy kick!).
- Go full fat! The belief that fat isn’t a health villain has been gaining traction over the last few years. Scientists have revealed people who consume full-fat milk – as opposed to low-fat milk – have a 46 per cent lower risk of developing diabetes, in addition to a lower risk of being obese or overweight. So I’ve opted for full fat whole milk, mozzarella and butter instead of margarine.
- Eat Happy – Choose foods that scientifically make you happier! I opted for fresh chilis (release natural endorphins + kill pathogens so you’ll be happier and cold-free), cabbage (endorphin-boosting properties and vitamin B6 which fights stress hormones), tomatoes (contains the antioxidant lycopene), bananas (contains tryptophan, a protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier), eggs (They’re a great source of zinc, which helps you to feel more alert and energised by regulating your metabolism and blood sugar levels – plus are packed with L-tryptophan, known to boost those happy hormones) and yogurt ( rich in calcium, a mineral which can ease mood swings, depression and anxiety).
- Zero Waste – use every part of every ingredient. For example: I roasted a chicken, then used the carcass to make chicken stock for my chicken & sweetcorn soup, don’t peel your root vegetables – just give them a good scrub, the peel is added fibre and extra crispy when roasted, and last but not least – buy canned plum tomatoes (and not chopped) as they’re the same price but contain fleshier tomatoes with less watery seeds – so more flavour!
- Tupperware – Make sure you’ve got a relatively decent collection of plastic Tupperware to store your food in, as you’ll need to ensure nothing spoils when using ingredients for multiple meals.
If you’d like to follow Beckie’s blog you can find it here.