New FoodCycle project does ‘what it says on the tin’

Food Cycle Launch in Hackney with local MP Meg Hillier.

Food Cycle Launch in Hackney with local MP Meg Hillier. - Credit: Archant

FoodCycle charity uses edible produce thrown away by supermarkets to cook up meals for those in need in community

Food Cycle Launch in Hackney with local MP Meg Hillier.

Food Cycle Launch in Hackney with local MP Meg Hillier. - Credit: Archant

The environmental problem of supermarket’s throwing away perfectly edible food is being solved by a groundbreaking project in Hackney, which sees it cooked up Ready, Steady, Cook style for those most in need.

FoodCycle uses surplus food supermarkets can no longer sell, with volunteers whipping it up into a three-course menu served in a community space for those at risk of food poverty and social isolation.

On Thursday last week MP Meg Hillier and London Assembly member Jennette Arnold attended the launch of the latest of the charity’s 20 national projects in the New Kingsworth Community centre in Ainsworth Road, South Hackney, set up in collaboration with Outward, a charity which supports vulnerable people.

Before the 40 guests tucked into a meal of canapes, bruschetta and arancini, followed by lentil dhal curry or vegetable and bean chilli and a dessert of apple crumble, speeches were made to launch the project.

MP for Hackney South Meg Hillier said: “I represent what people keep telling me what is the coolest constituency in the country – but I remind people it’s also one of the poorest constituencies in the country.

“Week in week out in my surgeries people are telling me increasingly that they are struggling to make ends meet and it’s a real problem.

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“In this day and age in the UK we shouldn’t see people going hungry while supermarkets are throwing out food with the other hand. This is a great initiative, I hope we can see it rolled out more across Hackney to make sure people have some good square meals in their stomachs when people are hitting difficult moments.”

A team of 12 volunteers collect the food from Sainsburys and other independent grocers before turning it into a healthy vegetarian meal.

Volunteers are made up of young people and students, the retired – while some come along for the social element and love to cook, for others it’s about building up their skills from food hygiene training to learning how to deal with vulnerable adults.

FoodCycle CEO Mary McGrath told the Gazette: “The idea is people sit down, make friends, take time and have the luxury of using cutlery, and we serve them a really beautiful meal. The volunteers are at the heart of making it all happen. We are vegetarian for the fact that we aren’t going to harm anybody, nothing is going to go wrong.

“Sometimes there might be a glut of aubergines, it’s really Ready Steady Cook style, you will find the most amazing imagination coming out in terms of soups or beautiful vegetarian spaghetti dishes.

“For many this might be the only warm meal they have in a week, so it’s heartening to know this is really an essential service.”

Jennette Arnold praised the project, saying she always loved to see something “which does what it says on the tin”. “It’s so straightforward and simple – it just makes sense,” she added.

The meal is served on Thursdays at 12.30pm.