when a good deed is lentil shaped: stopping food waste in Brighton

Vara Zakaharov of Food Waste Collective having a discussion about potential donors with a commumity chef

Vera Zakaharov of Food Waste Collective having a discussion about potential donors with a commumity chef from Emmaus Brighton.

Friday was one of those days that restored my faith in human nature.  I was in Brighton on behalf of Plan Zheroes supporting The Food Waste Collective’s 2nd food share event, held at University of Brighton’s Moulscoomb campus.

The impetus for this event came from a group of women who call Brighton their home: Vera Zakharov, Mei-Wah Tang, Caitriona Donahoe, Saskia Wesnigk-Wood and Josie Jeffery.

The timing could not have been more apposite: WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) established as an independent not-for-profit company that aims to minimise resource use and divert priority materials from landfill recently published an intriguing report, the  WRAP Review of Waste in the Hospitality and Food Service Sector that looks at how inter alia the UK can make better use of surplus food.

It notes: Redistribution of surplus food so that it is still eaten before it becomes waste, is preventing food waste, e.g. sending surplus food to a charity.

Mei-Wah Tang welcoming two members of a local charity and getting them to sign the PlanZheroes Charity Agreement

Mei-Wah Tang welcoming two members of a local charity and getting them to sign the PlanZheroes Charity Agreement

It was encouraging to see how many young people from many nationalities all getting together to make sure that fewer families are forced to make eat or heat decisions.

As a former Lewesian I was not alone, Pearl and Helen from the Lewes Food Bank were there showing the ‘young bucks’ how to bag up quantities of food into manageable portions.  This is a skill and one that can make a huge difference on the day in terms of reducing waste and saving time for volunteers.

Helen and Pearl from the Lewes Food Bank. Watch out for their bagging up video!

Helen and Pearl from the Lewes Food Bank. Watch out for their bagging up video!

So the ‘dynamic duo’ have both agreed to produce a video that shows others the tricks of the trade. I will provide the link in due course.

Pearl will be in addition establishing a link with Le Magasin in Lewes (the first donor to sign up there last year when I launched the Plan Zheroes intiative in Lewes) who have agreed to supply the Lewes Food Bank one of 3 in the town supported by Mayor, Ruth O’Keefe.

Some of Pearl and Helen's handiwork.

Some of Pearl and Helen’s handiwork.

I heard some wonderful stories of community engagement/ plaudits for Nathan of FareShare Brighton and of the superb work of Emmaus Brighton who grow and cook their own food in Portslade and note:

Research shows that for every £1 invested in a community, there is an £11 social, environmental and economic return, with savings to the benefits bill, health services and a reduction in crime reoffending.

Let me share one initiative just getting off the ground which I think deserves our support.

Sue Saunders of St Andrews School Hove is one of a growing number of parents who are concerned about the increasing levels of obesity among our young children.

Sue Sanders, one of the St Andrews School, Hove's cookery tuition team is looking for a cooker.

Sue Sanders, one of the St Andrews School, Hove’s cookery tuition team is looking for a cooker.

She (and I) bemoan the growth of fast food, TV dinners and the lack of culinary skills among the population. Austerity and consumerism are forcing both parents to work which is impacting family time and conversations over food which is where much social interaction occurs.

So Sue and her team are attempting to teach school children basic cookery skills so they can develop a taste for and interest in good food. Sue was there to pick up ingredients and needs a small cooker so if anyone can help here’s her email address (reproduced with her permission): sussaunders25@hotmail.com.

Apart from the copious amounts of food that was shared, Vera, Mei-Wah and Josie managed to sign up 3 charities to the PlanZheroes food map and registered Food Waste Collective as donors.

Plan Zheroes Food Map on Mei-Wah's iPad

Plan Zheroes Food Map on Mei-Wah’s iPad

Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of the visit was to see the enthusiasm among everyone who was giving up their time and skills to try and make a difference to the lives of people who are less fortunate.

At a time when immigration is in the spotlight it was noticeable that the volunteers came from a wide cross section of nationalities and ethnic background where food and community support are more of an ingrained part of the social fabric.

Plan Zheroes is delighted to have been able to support the Food Waste Collective.

scores on the doors

From Vera:

our end of event stats:

27 volunteers + 3 pallets of surplus food x 8 hours = 19 food projects and charities happily receiving much-needed food donations.

So far, since the first event in August, we have distributed over 3 tonnes of perfectly good, healthy delicious dry goods to local projects.

‘this is a theme which has reached its moment… there is definitely a need for this’

A quote from Ruth O’Keeffe District and County Councillor.

Thanks to many volunteer tweeters an account has been published of the inaugural Knowledge Cafe: making use of surplus food held at Le Magasin Lewes on Monday 24th September 2012. A fuller account of the meeting is available as a Storify record.

It was a chance to learn how London is using surplus food and feeding those who are struggling; to discuss how the PlanZheroes project has worked in London and to see if the conditions are right for it to work in Lewes and beyond.

Here are some of the highlights:


Plan Zheroes (PZ) are the ‘community noticeboard’ of donors and recipients of surplus food. They are not for profit and a core priniciple is that they do not charge either for the acquisition or provision of surplus food.

  • In a way they are brokers providing a service that brings parties at all levels of the food supply chain into contact with each other through their interactive map.
  • There is a need in and around Lewes: an increasing number of people are struggling and this will be exacerbated by changes in benefits from April 2013. Yet surplus food exists and while great initiatives are already under way many people are unaware of what others are doing and can offer (where the Plan Zheroes map comes in).
  • ‘There is no pressure, we are just trying to make good connections work’.
  • One of PZ’s main ‘USP’s’ is its ability to come up with imaginative solutions e.g. getting chefs to treat surplus prepared food as potential ingredients for use in other dishes e.g. salmon into Quiche or fish pie and to teach people how to cook with ‘leftovers’.
  • Despite established supply and delivery chains typical business models do not cover surplus prepared food of the type that comes from catering, restuarants, pubs, cafes and hotels. It needs to be consumed within a 12 hour period.
  • Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes: to help spot ‘Zheroes’:establishments willing to donate food/ organisations who wish to receive food and engage those people with the map; to help with food distribution -getting it from the donor to the recipient.
  • Don’t criticise and don’t push.  ‘People take time, they work at different speeds and have different comfort levels.
  • The potential launch of a funded mobile app will improve real time access so both sides of the food chain will be able to post information that is acted on much quicker.
  • A number of good ideas for sourcing and delivering surplus food emerged.  Most of the people who attended were excited by the prospect of using the Plan Zheroes map to help connect donors with recipients: ‘let’s get food from A to B. The food is there, the Demand is there. Let’s help distribute!’

Background to the meeting:

This came about following a chance meeting between a resident of Lewes (Paul J Corney) with Maria Ana Neves one of the co-founders and inspirations behind Plan Zheroes a citizen led movement to help use surplus food in London.
After a 3 month awareness campaign (use of social media, direct and targeted mailings to schools, centres of worship, publicans, gp groups, charities, volunteer groups, restaurants and hotels), it was decided to hold an open evening (a Knowledge Cafe) to look at what Plan Zheroes had acheived to date in London; whether a need existed in and around Lewes and finally could a Plan Zheroes style operation work here.

It is important to note the tacit and often explicit support of Lewes District Council Officials, Councillors and Transition Town Lewes (a number of whom were at the meeting).

Plan Zheroes:
Maria Ana Neves
Knowledge et al team:
Paul J Corney (Catalyst); Ana Aguilar-Corney (Registration & Curator); Joe Offer (Curator)
Le Magasin hosts:
Frankie; Maddie; Joe; Cameron; Xavi
Cross section of volunteer groups, street evangelists, gp surgery heads, councillors, council officials, leaders of networks and business people. NB Names have been omitted to preserve anonymity.



Using Storify to report on NHS Shaping our Future event

In 2010 following a visit (ironically as part of a WHO delegation) to Darfur I contracted Graves Disease; thanks to the excellent support and clinical treatment from all of the Doctors at St Andrew’s Surgery, Lewes and Dr John Quin Consultant Endocrinologist at Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton I’m nearly back to rude health.

So I made a commitment (to myself at least) that I’d find a way of saying thank you for these two years which is why I spent yesterday afternoon in Bexhill attending a consultation session on the future of the NHS in our county.

It also gave me a good chance to see how they they run sessions like this since my colleagues at Sparknow (and I) have undertaken similar working sessions in far flung places. Finally it gave me a chance to try out Storify as a way of consolidating the tweets I was posting as the event went on.

And for introducing me to its potential I have to thank Chris Heffer who is doing some really interesting things with social business at SAP. Here’s what I thought about using Storify:


  • simple to drag and drop content from social media stream
  • ability to write summary at the top of the account of the event
  • made me think about tweets as I had the container in mind when I was typing them
  • made me think about the audience who might read it
  • created in less than an hour
  • can be used to consolidate accounts of an event commercial, sporting or leisure

  • once you get over a page you start to lose interest
  • need editorial skills if a lot of stuff on a subject

See what you think. Here’s my Storify account of the afternoon entitled Shaping our future