I am spending this weekend finalising the winners for the Freefrom From Eating Out Awards which will be presented by Antony WT on the 18th November – eek – only ten days away…. So I shall not breathe a word more about them – except to say that even in year 1 we have managed to find some fairly extraordinary freefrom eateries.
Meanwhile, last week saw the end of the ‘early bird’ discounted entry to the 2015 FreeFrom Food Awards – and entries are already 33% up on last year!!! Who says that ‘freefrom’ has peaked?
Cressida is just emerging from under the massive pile of last minute discounted entries to take a breather before the build up to the final entry date of the 7th December. However, she has just about done all the initial invoices. This allows us to make our first donation to our charity of the year, Foodcycle – and it looks as though it will top £2,500, which means that in total we should raise well over £5,000 for them this year. (We donate 10% of everyone’s entry fee and many of our entrants also choose to match that.)
It is a very timely moment to be sending them a cheque as Foodcycle has just published its first Social Impact Report – and it makes pretty impressive reading. If you are interested in looking at the whole report, contact Foodcycle via their website, but here are a few of the ‘headline’ figures. Incidentally, if you have not heard of them, Foodcycle collects surplus unsold food from retail outlets (mainly the big supermarkets) and uses volunteers to cook it in kitchens which are currently unused (in schools, community centres etc) to provide hot, nutritious three-course meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation.
They now have 17 ‘hubs’ across the country with a number more in the pipeline plus a café and catering service in Bromley by Bow in East London. The charity has been ‘in business’ since May 2009 since when their 3,000 odd volunteers have used over 120,000 kilos of surplus food to create over 105,000 meals!
Surveys quoted in their report show that a 72% of those who enjoy Foodcycle meals will have skipped at least one meal in the previous week, 68% are out of work and 85% struggle to afford basics such as food or household bills. 62% of their ‘guests’ live alone, are over 65, homeless or affected by mental health issues, and Foodcycle’s meals offer them much more than just food. 87% of their guests reported feeling more part of the community since eating with them and 85% have said that Foodcycle has enabled them to make new friends.
The other great benefit of the charity is that the hubs provide training for local volunteers (a significant number of whom started as Foodcycle ‘guests’ ) who gain skills that may help them to get a job. The community café in Bromley by Bow formally trains its young volunteers and, in the last year, 16 of 30 volunteers who were NEETs (16-24 year-olds not in employment, education or training) have, thanks to their training, moved on to ‘proper’ jobs or further training.
And, of course, there is all that surplus food that they are putting to good use – 46 tonnes of it in this year alone. (This, apparently, is a CO2 saving of 207 tonnes which is the equivalent of driving 44 cars for a year…) And, quite apart from the practical food savings, they have had a significant educational impact on everyone concerned: 91% of volunteers have become much more waste aware, as have 73% of their hub guests and 80% of their café customers!
So, it is a really good job that they are doing out there. If you want to know more, give them some money or, indeed, volunteer your time, check in to their website where you will find all that you need to know.