Very soon we will be announcing the 2015 Freefrom Food Awards (entry opens in mid September) and our new charity for 2014, FoodCycle. FoodCycle asked us to write a blog for their site about why we had chosen them as our charity for 2015 – and I have just realised that it should probably not only appear on their site but on ours! So here we go…
The FreeFrom Food and Eating Out awards were started eight years ago to raise awareness of the problems faced by coeliacs (who must not eat wheat, barley or rye all of which contain gluten that makes them seriously ill) and those who are food allergic or intolerant and who may not be able to eat nuts, any dairy products, eggs, soya, celery or a whole range of other ‘normal’ foods. The awards were also designed to set a standard of excellence for ‘freefrom’ food to encourage manufacturers to focus on what was then a poorly-catered-for group of consumers.
I am delighted to say that over those eight years the quantity and quality of the gluten, dairy, nut and allergen free food available everywhere from the internet to the supermarket shelves has improved enormously – and our awards have grown with the growth in the market!
However, we soon discovered that one of the unintended consequences of running food awards is that you generate a great deal of food waste. There is really nothing very much you can do about this. If your judges are going to be able to judge the entries they have to have to be able to see the food in its packs to assess how clearly the ingredient information has been given (particularly important for ‘freefrom’ food). But, if they are judging up to 40 different foods in a session, they are not going to eat more than a spoonful of each. This is compounded by the fact that it is often easier for a manufacturer to send us a case (12 packs) of their product rather that breaking up the case to just send us two!
In the early days it was not too bad as we managed to distribute most of the unwanted food among family and friends – but how many packs of gluten-free scone mix or jars of egg-free mayonnaise can anyone actually use? So we needed to find another solution. Fortunately, Carmen, who helps us during the judging period, remembered that there was a Simon Community refuge just round the corner. They are always delighted to receive any and all sorts of food to help cater for their residents who come in off the street and have often seen little food of any sort for days. Mind you, what exactly they make of ten packs of frozen Brazilian cassava doughballs or twelve bottles of raspberry vinegar I am not quite sure, but they always seem delighted to take anything we have to offer.
However, our ‘excess’ problems did make us think about food waste when we were looking for a charity to support for the 2015 Freefrom Food Awards. (Each year we give 10% of our entrants’ fees – often matched by them – to our charity of the year.) Although our ‘food waste’ is often of no use to FoodCycle as I know you make everything from fresh (quite right too!!) the FoodCycle concept seemed perfect for us. So we are very happy to have to have found you and hope that we have lots of generous entrants this year who will not only enter a record number of products for the awards but will match our donations to boost your coffers!
If you want to know more about ‘freefrom’ food and the many health conditions that require people to live on a restricted diet, take a look at our FreeFromMatters.com website where you will find links to all of our awards (food, eating out and freefrom skincare) and to our very large informational websites about food allergy, intolerance and sensitivity and coeliac disease.