Ready, Steady, Cook! Brands2Life volunteers with FoodCycle Hackney

At Brands2Life, our employees have a passion for purposeful work and we’re all keen to give back to local communities; from our work with the Ark Globe Academy through to Hackney Quest. Our latest initiative is to give employees a day’s paid leave each year to volunteer for either Whitechapel Mission or FoodCycle.

Last week, we headed across London to the New Kingshold Community Centre in Hackney. Here, volunteers at FoodCycle have been cooking three course meals for vulnerable and homeless people in the local area for five years.

Currently, millions of people in the UK regularly experience hunger, yet tonnes of fresh food gets thrown away every day. Food Cycle works with The Felix Project – a charity which collects edible, nutritious food ‘waste’ from local shops and restaurants. Imagine a slightly wonky courgette or a block of cheese with a dent in it. This food is delivered to a selection of charities across London, so that they can provide healthy meals for the most vulnerable people in our society.

This was our first FoodCycle volunteering session, so we had no idea what to expect. After a short brief from our team leaders, introductions, and tour around the kitchen, the delivery lorry from The Felix Project arrived. Imagine Ready, Steady, Cook, but on a much larger scale and with more basic utensils and equipment! Boxes and boxes of food appeared, from fresh herbs and spices, a multitude of vegetables, through to artisan bread, tropical fruit, butter and yoghurt.

We were a complete group of strangers thrown together, but we worked brilliantly as a team, applying our creativity to a completely new challenge. Anne, our team leader, got so excited about all the possible dishes we could make from the delivery, and we began brainstorming different meal ideas together, before agreeing on:

  • Middle Eastern salad, with raisins, wheatberries, grated vegetables and rice
  • Jacket potato with ratatouille and cheese
  • Banana muffins with plain yogurt and tropical fruit salad

With just an hour to go before people started arriving, we quickly agreed roles before cracking on with chopping, grating, mixing and cooking. It was amazing to see the quality – and volume – of food we produced in such a short time (even if we do say so ourselves!). Not to mention the amount of washing up we got through!

One of the things FoodCycle prides itself on is its zero food waste policy, so any food that we could not use for the dishes was divided up into takeaway bags for our guests. This week’s delights included popcorn, Innocent Smoothies, Freddo yoghurts and Tilda rice packs.

As we mingled and chatted with the 50+ guests, we saw absolutely every morsel of food devoured – we had to turn down quite a few ‘seconds’ requests, but we took this as a compliment for our team’s cooking!

Many of the guests have been visiting for years, and it’s clear to see that the community centre with FoodCycle is a great place to counter loneliness while providing a hot, nutritious meal which they may otherwise go without.

We both really enjoyed our day with FoodCycle and gained a lot from the experience. It opened our eyes to the amount of food which still goes to waste each day but can be put to good use. We really valued having the opportunity to give something back to the community and that we could support FoodCycle to bring this initiative to local people in need.

This blog post was written by Kate Smith and Naomi Longworth, Practice Directors, Brands2Life

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