I have a belly full of guilt, my friends. In the past month, where it has been reported over 800,000 children go to school hungry, and food poverty is one of most mind-boggling fall outs of the recession and current government welfare policy, my own eating habits have been placed in stark contrast to those having to make use of food banks or those in extreme poverty survive on just £1 a day to feed themselves and their family.*
How, when food waste is a massive issue, are we seeing people across the world struggle to eat?
Other people have written far more eloquently about the issues in the UK than I ever could, and from a far more understanding perspective – see North South Food examine the issues driving the rise in food banks and Jack Monroe’s blog detailing her life on the breadline – but from my incredibly fortunate position, eating out at least twice a week, having a fully stocked fridge and (like most people) throwing out a yellow headed stem of broccoli on a weekly basis, it’s quite evident I can do better, and most certainly give back more.
There are many great initiatives out there, from ideological campaigns like Live Below the Line to big brands like Kelloggs supporting school breakfast clubs (difficult as may be to see this as entirely altruistic gesture), but the most impactful organisation I’ve come across is FoodCycle, which…
“…builds communities by combining volunteers, surplus food and spare kitchen spaces to create nutritious meals for people at risk from food poverty and social isolation.”
Started back in 2008, it provides a free sit down meals for the 4 million people affected by food poverty in the UK, (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2000) and more than 500,000 people accessing food banks (Walking The Breadline 2013), in the process cleverly tackling several major social issues through one nifty initiative with four main aims.
- Reducing food poverty by providing nutritious meals to vulnerable groups
- Reducing food waste by reclaiming it for use
- Building stronger communities and reducing social isolation through communal dining
- Empowering volunteers to develop skills and creating positive social change in their communities
Through making use of food that would otherwise go to waste from supermarkets, drawing on the time and skills of volunteers to cook and feed people in need of a hot, healthy meal, Food Cycle are bringing people together from all walks of life through food, and helping develop the skills of people wanting to get back into gainful employment.
Needless to say really, but I fricking love FoodCycle. It’s such a neat, impactful idea that benefits so many people – over 73,000 meals serves and 74,000kg of food reclaimed to date – and tackles so many prevalent social issues, it’s impossible not to admire the work or be inspired to get involved.
So, whilst time poor and not always available to help out directly and volunteer at the Manchester Food Cycle Hub, I am (slightly more) cash rich, so have started donating to FoodCycle on a monthly basis, and having a big gob and a food blog to back it up, can write about it and the great work they do. This October’s campaign is the perfect place to start…
Food Cycle Tip or Tweet Campaign
The basic premise of the campaign is that restaurants, using FoodCycle Tip or Tweet donation vouchers, encourage diners to make donations to FoodCycle throughout October in the run up to Halloween. Super simple, and a very easy way to get gluttons like me to give back, and to get the hospitality industry – another major part of the food landscape and significant contributors to the food waste issue too – to get involved in supporting food poverty initiatives.
Initial support for the campaign on Twitter started some debate, highlighting (quite rightfully) the concern that tips would be diverted from serving staff who use the money to supplement their (often meagre) restaurant salary. Whilst I’d be happy to both tip the staff and donate, I’m in a fortunate position.
Restaurants getting involved will know best whether its customers would be likely to both tip and donate, and if staff support for the campaign might seem a barrier to entry, there’s always the option to encourage people to tweet about @foodcycle, and raise awareness for the charity instead. A few London restaurants are already involved in the campaign, with more lined up in the run up to Halloween to raise awareness and money.
So, which Manchester restaurants would you like to see support the Tip or Tweet campaign? Are you a restaurant that would like to get involved, or a (similarly greedy and guilt laden) blogger with an audience and feel inspired to write or tweet about the campaign? All the information you need is here.
* $1.25 in the US, which is held as the global marker for the extreme poverty line.